South Korea drive-in cinemas enjoy sales boom over virus fears

Publish: 9:22 PM, March 22, 2020 | Update: 9:22:PM, March 22, 2020

SEOUL, – A long queue of cars forms in front of a drive-in cinema in Seoul, as South Koreans look for safer spaces to enjoy a movie without the risk of contracting the coronavirus raging across the world.

Box office numbers in South Korea — which has 8,897 confirmed virus cases — have plummeted in recent weeks due to the epidemic, with authorities
urging the public to avoid large crowds. But at Park Dong-ju’s drive-in cinema, moviegoers can enjoy a film from the comfort of their cars, parked in front of a large outdoor screen.

“We’ve had a 10-20 percent increase in sales for weekdays, and sell out on weekends,” Park said, adding: “We’re definitely getting many more calls and internet inquiries after the coronavirus outbreak.”

A website for his drive-in cinema shows a large banner that reads, “Open throughout the year”, a stark contrast to some theatres worldwide forced to
suspend business over virus fears. Choi Jin-young, a 22-year-old hospital worker, said she had to wait two hours for tickets and was worried that it might sell out for the weekend.

“I wanted to enjoy culture life with my boyfriend but since cinemas are dangerous and worrying to go, I looked for a special date and that’s how we
came here,” she said. Park Ji-seung, 24, said he refrained from going outside due to the coronavirus outbreak, but added he felt “safe” at the drive-in cinema.

South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun urged religious, indoor sports and entertainment facilities to suspend operations for 15 days, asking the
public to work from home and refrain from going outside. Scores of events — from K-pop concerts to sports matches — have been cancelled or postponed over the contagion.