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The Seoul Cinema to close permanently at end of August

The Seoul Cinema building in Jongno-gu, central Seoul. (The Seoul Cinema)
The Seoul Cinema building in Jongno-gu, central Seoul. (The Seoul Cinema)

The Seoul Cinema, which opened in 1979, announced on Saturday that it will soon close its doors permanently.

“The Seoul Cinema, which has been a beloved cultural center of Jongno-gu for over 40 years, will close permanently on Aug. 31, 2021,” theater operator Hapdong Film said in a statement.

The operator added that it is currently preparing to make changes, but did not announce specific plans on how the facility will be used in the future.

Established in 1964, Hapdong Film was a film production company. The company acquired Segi Theater in Jongno-gu, Seoul in 1978 and changed its name to The Seoul Cinema before reopening it the following year.

The Seoul Cinema which started with one screen at the time grew dramatically and became Korea’s first multiplex in 1989. It currently has more than 10 screens.

The main reason for The Seoul Cinema‘s permanent closure is severe financial difficulties that it has been facing since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out last year, according to local news reports.

Korean cinemas were battered by a series of strict social distancing measures that were applied to prevent the spread of COVID-19 starting last year. The number of cinema closures soared to a 12-year high in 2020 to 81 in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, according to the Ministry of the Interior and Safety‘s data from January.

Also, 2020 saw the number of people who visited cinemas plunge 74 percent from the previous year, which is the lowest since the Korean Film Council started compiling box office data in 2004.

Even before the pandemic, The Seoul Cinema had faced financial difficulties, losing market share to conglomerates such as CGV and Lotte Cinema that started to expand in the 2000s.

In recent years, The Seoul Cinema focused on screening art and independent movies. Small film festivals including Mise-en-scene Short Film Festival and the Seoul Eco Film Festival, were also held at The Seoul Cinema. However, it did not prove to be enough to improve its financial status.

The Seoul Cinema is among many privately-owned theaters in Jongno-gu, central Seoul, to close. Another privately-owned movie theater Dansungsa, which was established in 1907, also had to close its doors in 2006, unable to compete against the rise of multiplexes.

By Song Seung-hyun (ssh@heraldcorp.com)
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