The Korean Film Council (KOFIC) has reported that export figures for Korean films bounced up 40% year-on-year to total $20.54m, based on minimum guarantees, ending a freefall that started in 2004.

Although, the sum still falls short of the $30.9m worth of exports in 2003, it is higher than the $14.9m in 2002.

Asia, North America and Europe remain the biggest buyers of Korean films, making up 96.3% of sales, almost the same as 2007's 96.2%. Exports to Asia were $12.97m, to the US $3.13m and to Europe $4.13m.

Cinema admissions in 2008 went down 5% to 150.83m year-on-year, although ticket sales gross decreased by only 1.3% year-on-year to $712m.

Local film market share also went down to 42.1% from 50% in 2007. KOFIC noted the drop in local films' admissions was mirrored by the drop in total admissions.

Korean films saw a dire first half which ended with 37.2% market share, while Hollywood films such as Iron Man led the box office. However, Korean films rallied in the second half of the year with hits like The Good, The Bad, The Weird and Scandal Makers to end with more than 40% of admissions.

KOFIC pointed out only three other countries in 2008 saw more than 40% local market share - US, India and Japan.

US and Korean films combined took up 90.1% of the total market share, down from 94.3% in 2007, showing signs of diversification in cinemas with 'third country' films (i.e. non-US, non-Korean films).

However, the increased market share for 'third country' films was not only due to smaller arthouse films but also benefitted from the Chinese martial arts epic Three Kingdoms: Resurrection Of The Dragon and English-language action thriller Taken from France.

The number of films viewed per capita went from 3.2 in 2007 to 3.0 in 2008.

Production costs have been cut, going from an average of $2.7m per film the year before to $2.18m. Leaving out low-budget films made for under KW1bn ($722,000), the average film's budget was $3.3m (KW4.52bn), down from $3.8m (KW5.21bn) the year before.

Despite complaints about the difficulties in finding investors, the number of films released for the first time (first-run films) was at 108 - staying above 100 and matching 2006's first-run releases. There were 112 releases in 2007. Foreign films with first-run releases numbered 271, down from 280 the year before.

For distributor market share, CJ Entertainment's 38 films - which included the Paramount and DreamWorks films exclusively handled by CJ in Korea - led the pack with 30.1%, Showbox Mediaplex took 10.1% with its 19 films, UPI Korea 9.9% with its 13, Lotte Entertainment 8.4% with its 27 films, and Sony Pictures Releasing Buena Vista International Korea took 6.8% with 15 films.

The country saw about 100 more screens built, taking the number nationwide up to a record 2,081.

Korea Top 10 Box Office Hits - local & foreign films by gross (title/country/distributor/admissions/gross)

1. The Good, The Bad, The Weird (Korea) CJ Ent - 6.68 million ($31.79m)

2. The Chaser (Korea) Showbox Mediaplex - 5.07 million ($24.66m)

3. Kung Fu Panda (US) CJ Entertainment - 4.67 million ($21.79m)

4. Mamma Mia! (US/UK) UPI - 4.53 million ($21.4m)

5. Public Enemy Returns (Korea) CJ Entertainment - 4.30 million ($20.68m)

6. Scandal Makers (Korea) Lotte Entertainment - 4.35 million ($20.67m)

7. Iron Man (US) CJ Entertainment - 4.31 million ($20.20m)

8. The Dark Knight (US) Warner Brothers Korea - 4.06 million ($20.20m)

9. Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (US) CJ Ent - 4.13 million ($19.39m)

10. The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor (US/Ger/Can) UPI - 4.09 million ($19.05m)

Top 10 Box Office Hits - local films by gross


1. The Good, The Bad, The Weird (CJ Ent) - 6.68 million ($31.79m)

2. The Chaser (Showbox Mediaplex) - 5.07 million ($24.66m)

3. Public Enemy Returns (CJ Ent) - 4.30 million ($20.68m)

4. Scandal Makers (Lotte Entertainment) - 4.35 million ($20.67m)

5. Forever The Moment (Sidus FNH) - 4.04 million ($19.0m)

6. The Divine Weapon (CJ Ent) - 3.72 million ($17.66m)

7. Portrait Of A Beauty (CJ Ent) - 2.32 million ($11.28m)

8. Eye For An Eye (Lotte Entertainment) - 2.05 million ($9.74m)

9. My Wife Got Married (CJ Ent) - 1.78 million ($8.17m)

10. Sunny (Showbox Mediaplex) - 1.70 million ($8.14m)