After five years of growth, Korean film exports dropped 68% year-on-year in 2006. Exports totaled $24.5m - down from $75.9m the year before, according to the Korean Film Council (KOFIC)'s year-end statistics.

For the first time, Korean sales saw a slump in its main Asian markets, where its $17m takings represented a 74.3% drop on 2005.

Exports to Japan, Korea's biggest customer, are down by 82.8% to $10.3m - accounting for most of the decrease.

The fall in Japanese sales had been predicted earlier after a string of high-priced Korean Wave star vehicles flopped at the territory's box office. Japan's local films have been seeing rising market share and increased production.

On the other hand, sales to Thailand increased by 118.7%, from $1.52m to $3.32m, making it Korea's second biggest buyer.

Sales to Europe totaled $4.9m, down 33% year-on-year. Although Germany did buy 4.5% more at $1.29m, France bought 14.6% less at a similar amount - $1.28.

North American sales totaled $1.9m, accounting for 8% of Korea's total exports. In-country, Korea saw a record 110 films produced last year, with 108 of those released. The number of productions is up 26.4% year-on-year.

Nationwide admissions totaled 163.8 million, with KOFIC estimating 64.2% for local films.

Seoul box offices saw 50 million admissions, with 60.3% of that going to local films - passing the 60% mark for the first time since KOFIC started gathering Seoul data in 1999.

Koreans saw 3.4 films per person on average last year, on a par with the French and Spanish.

Cinemas in Korea totaled 306 with 1847 screens at the end of the year. According to KOFIC, cinemas reported an increase of 199 screens in total, with plans to keep up the building so that the number would be over 2000 by the end of this year. KOFIC pointed out, however, that profits per screen are falling with rising P&A costs and construction fees.

The average production budget last year came in at $4.3m, similar to the past four years around $4m. P&A took up 35.8% of total budgets, up from 31.6% the year before.

Despite a public dispute between top two distributors CJ Entertainment and Showbox Mediaplex over who took the no. 1 spot nationwide, KOFIC announced distributor rankings for Seoul only, merely commenting that the nationwide difference between CJ and Showbox was negligible.

In Seoul, CJ took 23.3% of the market with 49 releases - 32 local and 17 foreign, while Showbox took 20.1% with the considerably smaller number of 28 releases - 23 local and 5 foreign.

The top 10 was rounded out by Cinema Service (11%), SPRI (10.1%), UIP (7.6%), Fox (5.9%), Warner Brothers (5.8%), Lotte Entertainment (5.6%), Prime Entertainment (2.8%), and MK Pictures (2.4%).

Top 10 Films Nationwide
Title (Distributor) Admissions

1. The Host (Showbox Mediaplex) 13,019,740
2. King And The Clown (Cinema Service) 12,302,831
3. Tazza: The High Rollers (CJ Entertainment) 6,847,777
4. Mission: Impossible III (UIP Korea) 5,740,789
5. Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (BVI Korea) 4,628,903
6. My Boss, My Teacher (CJ Entertainment) 6,105,431
7. The Da Vinci Code (Sony Pictures Releasing Korea) 3,339,082
8. Hanbando (CJ Entertainment) 3,880,308
9. Maundy Thursday (Prime Entertainment) 3,132,320
10. 200 Pounds Beauty (Showbox Mediaplex) 3,561,866