Box Office Raided By Police On Suspicion Of Tampering

Three cinema chains in South Korea are being investigated for allegedly inflating box office returns.

By Zack Zagranis | Published

box office

Hollywood might be struggling with a writers’ strike currently, but at least they don’t have to worry about AMC cooking the books. Police in South Korea recently raided a trio of movie theater chains and three major film distributors for allegedly manipulating their box office numbers. According to Deadline, the Korean Film Council is accusing the businesses of falsely inflating the number of tickets sold for certain Korean films.

The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency’s Anti-Corruption and Public Crimes Investigation Division reported that it is investigating cinemas from the CGV, Megabox, and Lotte Cinema chains. Police were sent to conduct sweeps of the theaters and to confiscate data relating to the alleged box office manipulation. The same was done for the distribution companies Showbox, Lotte Entertainment, and Kidari Studio.

The pair of movies suspected of having their box office numbers illegally inflated are Emergency Declaration from 2021 and last year’s crime drama Hot Blooded. Two more films yet to be named are also under investigation. The police suspect that a large number of tickets were purchased in bulk for shows held in an empty theater known as “ghost screenings.”

The same tactic was allegedly used in China seven years ago to pump up the opening weekend numbers for the third film in the popular Ip Man franchise.

box office
Song Kang-ho in Emergency Declaration (2021), one of the films whose box office returns were allegedly inflated

Emergency Declaration was the #14 movie in South Korea last year, while Hot Blooded came in at #50 according to the Korean Film Council’s box office ranking. The council, also known as KOFIC, manages Korean box office numbers for every movie released in the country through the Korean Box Office Information System. Multiplexes and distributors are required in South Korea to report their numbers to the KBOIS directly.

South Korea has replaced Japan in recent years as the go-to country for cinema geeks looking to escape the usual cookie-cutter Hollywood fare. Movies like revenge tale Old Boy, creature feature The Host, and Best Picture winner at the 92 Oscars ceremony, Parasite, have helped to cement Korea as a cinematic powerhouse to be reckoned with.

And it’s not just movies. Korean television has exploded in popularity thanks to an eclectic offering of K-Dramas and horror like Sweet Home and Squid Game available on Netflix. Meanwhile, thanks to bands like BTS K-Pop continues to dominate the global pop-music landscape.

The alleged need for these theater chains and distributors to dishonestly report their box office numbers stands in stark contrast to the recent rise in popularity of South Korean content in the US and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, “Ghost Screening” sounds like the title of a movie about a haunted movie theater. Either A24 or Blumhouse needs to get on that, ASAP.