Most multiplexes in South Korea see occupancy of just 20% to 30%, but one cinema has figured out the secret of selling out almost every show. It is a model that is now spreading all across Korea as other cinemas jump on the trend. It is also one that will have increasing relevance in Japan, Europe and the United States in the coming years.
Hollywood Silver Cinema does not make much of an impression from the outside. The single-screen is a small (just 300 seats), old fashioned cinema on the fourth floor of the Nakwon Arcade located in Seoul’s old Jung-gu district, on the other side of the river from the ritzy Gangnam-gu district that Psy immortalised in his song and music video. Yet according to the cinemas CEO Kim Eun-ju its average seat occupancy reaches a staggering 80% to 90%.
The cinema opened in 2009 as a social enterprise, where previously the Hollywood Theatre attracted young Koreans with American blockbusters. The cinema still shows Hollywood blockbusters every day, but not “American Sniper”, “The SpongeBob Movie” or any Marvel super heroes.
Speaking to AsiaOne Entertainment, CEO Kim explains what films they show:
“The films we select are mostly from the 1940s to ’70s that were ranked first to fifth at the box office at the time,” she said.
Past selections have included “Gone with the Wind” (1939), “Ben-Hur” (1959), “Dr. Zhivago” (1965) and “Cinema Paradiso” (1988).
The ‘silver’ in the cinema’s name does not refer to the screen (it doesn’t show any 3D films), nor the nitrate in the 35mm print stock but to the typical patrons. The only fifty shades of grey you will see in this cinema is the hair colour of the audience (those that are not bald yet). But the ‘silver appeal’ is now rapidly spreading throughout Korea.