The Minister of Culture pledges to support cinemas affected by the pandemic

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Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Hwang Hee held talks with executives of three local multiplex operators – CGV, Lotte Cinema and Megabox – at CGV Yongsan in central Seoul on Saturday. (Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism)

Hwang Hee, minister of culture, sports and tourism, met with six executives from the three major local multiplex operators — CGV, Lotte Cinema and Megabox — at CGV Yongsan in central Seoul on Saturday, the first day of five- Lunar New Year holiday.

After a thorough quarantine inspection at the theater, he listened to the difficulties faced by cinema operators under the government’s strict measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Given that the (movie) industry has been a strong advocate and has multiple success stories, the government will not let its views stand aside. … What the authorities can do is act as a (pump-)primer for the water. We will do everything we can to help the industry affected by the pandemic,” Hwang said at the start of the discussion.

Amid a rise in severe COVID-19 cases, the government had to enforce stricter social distancing measures at cinemas late last year. As a result, the industry faced a dramatic loss of sales as the guidelines allowed it to operate for limited hours. He also banned the public from eating in theaters.

Many local films have also decided to delay releases due to restricted circumstances.

Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Hwang Hee (left of center) and leaders of three local multiplex operators - CGV, Lotte Cinema and Megabox - held a meeting at CGV Yongsan in central Beijing on Saturday. Seoul.  (Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism)

Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Hwang Hee (left of center) and leaders of three local multiplex operators – CGV, Lotte Cinema and Megabox – held a meeting at CGV Yongsan in central Beijing on Saturday. Seoul. (Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism)

Although they held further discussions behind closed doors, the executive of a local multiplex operator who attended the meeting told the Korea Herald that the industry strongly demands support for local film releases.

“Before the discussion, the government only treated us like big companies complaining about stricter guidelines. In reality, we provided a lot of financial support to help early screenings of the films and fell deeper into the red,” the director said.

“Cinemas are the only way to circulate the (cinema) industry. This is why we must first relaunch to energize the local cinematographic ecosystem. … We sincerely hope that the authorities will give their support to help the active releases of the films. And we believe the minister can help us out.

Earlier this week, the Korean Theater Association issued a statement to urge authorities to support local film distributors who are suffering from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic crisis.

In the latest statement, he asked the government to issue a supportive policy, while mentioning that the industry has not yet received a clear answer on this. Although the association worked hard to shore up the industry last year, it was still not enough.

By Jie Ye-eun ([email protected])

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