I had plans to sit down with a very pretty old friend of mine on a Tuesday night. She used to work at a CGV movie theater in Seoul, and we had plans to discuss the movie theater system in Korea. I waited in the small but bustling Yeoido subway station, where businessman after businessman was on their way home, while wearing their ties just a little bit looser. She texted that she was going to be late, as she had just started a new job and was trying to make a good impression at work. Ten minutes later, she came out of the turnstiles noticeably more in a hurry than the other passengers.  We exchanged greetings and decided to go to a Twosome Place coffee shop. 

While talking for well over an hour she was able to answer many of the questions that I had regarding movie theaters in Korea, in particular the CGV theater chain. It is quite common for interviewees in Korea to want to remain anonymous, as their reputation and future job prospects may be affected. Therefore, our friend today will be simply be known as Hae-Min or HM.

Which CGV did you work at?

HM: At the Yeoido CGV.

How long did you work at the theater?
HM: For 8 months.

What was your position at CGV?
HM: My position would change everyday. Sometimes I would sell tickets, sometimes I would sell food, and other times I would be the ticket checker.

Do part time employees like you have to clean as well?
HM: No, they have cleaning staff hired just for that job. I mostly just sold tickets.

Why did you leave that CGV?
HM: Ha, I left because I got a different job at a bank.

What is the most crowded day at movie theaters in Korea?
HM: Friday and Saturday definitely. Friday night is busier than Saturday night, but Saturday has more people throughout the entire day.

And what time is it the most crowded at the theater?
HM: Between about 6pm and 8pm.

What day of the week is the least crowded?
HM: Monday is definitely the least crowded day of the week.

What are the pricing levels at CGV?
HM: During the weekdays, it’s 9,000 won during the day and at night. But during the weekend it’s 10,000 won. But there is an “early-bird” price too. That for the first showing in a Kwon(auditoriums). That’s 6,000 won. You have to look at the schedule though for what movies it’s going to be for.

Have ticket prices gone up recently? Or have they always been that price?
HM: For the 8 months I was there, ticket prices were the same. But some people don’t know that some CGV’s are more expensive than others. The one I worked at in Yeoido had a higher ticket price than other CGV’s because the Yeoido had the SOUND-X system in it’s kwons.

Which CGV in Seoul is the nicest in your opinion?
HM: I think the Yeoido and Cheongnam CGV’s. Those ones are more expensive than other CGV’s too. They have different and nicer interiors. They have different like projection and audio systems too. Oh and also the chairs are different. The chairs at the Yeoido and Cheongnam CGV are more comfortable. I’m not sure about the Cheongnam CGV, but I know at the Yeoido one, you can’t pull up the armrest because of the chairs’ design.

And which CGV is the largest? Like, either has the most screens or the biggest kwons?
HM: I’m not sure exactly. I know Yeungdeungpo has the Starium, which is the biggest kwon in Korea, but Wangsimni has the biggest IMAX. Hmmm, but as far as being the biggest theater, probably the Yongsan CGV or the Wangsimni CGV.

CGVSeating

How soon should you buy tickets before the movie starts to get good seats?
HM: It depends on the day. During weekdays you can still get a good seat by booking like 2 hours before. On a weekend though, you have to book the ticket like a day before at least. If it’s a really popular movie, you should book 3 days before. People are also crazy about watching movies on Holidays like Chuseok and White Day. On those days, we would get like 2 times as much traffic as usual. On those days, since it’s more of an event for people, people would book those tickets right after the tickets open.

Can you go in late to a movie?
HM: Yea, you can. It doesn’t matter if the movie is halfway over or not.

What is 4DX exactly?
HM: In 4DX it’s usually always a 3D movie. The chairs will move, not just vibrate like in VEATBOX chairs. They usually move a lot. Sometimes there will also be smells. Like when a bomb explodes in a movie, there will be a burning smell. There’s also sometimes mists of water. So like when a monster in the movie would spit, you would get sprayed with water.

How do they do 4DX?
HM: I don’t know very well. But I heard the chair is really expensive. Each chair I guess costs over 1,000,000 won. They’re really expensive. Smells come from the ceiling. So other people in the audience might be able to smell the smells too, since not every chair in the theater is a 4DX chair.

If you’re really unhappy with your seat, can you go out to the box office and ask to change it?
HM: Yes. You can even do so if the movie has started already.


Couples

I’ve noticed that when going to a movie theater in Korea, most people that are there are couples. What is the most popular date night, so that I can try to avoid it next time?
HM: Ha. Usually Friday night.

What are the average ages of people that sit in the “couple seats?”
HM: I’d say about late 20′s or early 30′s. Since the couple seats are more expensive than regular seats, middle and high school kids don’t get those seats a lot. You could really just make a couple seat by pulling up the armrest.

Have you ever heard of people complaining about a couple getting “too” intimate?
HM: Hmm. I’ve never seen it myself, but one of my co-workers had said he has. Koreans are usually pretty afraid to show off PDA (pubic display of affection).

Can two boys get a couple seat?
HM: Yeah, if they want to. But I’ve never seen it.

CGV2Food

Am I allowed to bring outside food and drinks into a theater?
HM: Yeah, they don’t really care too much about it. But, if you have a food or drink that smells a lot they’ll say something to you. It’s in case if other customers would complain of the smell. So if you tried to bring in Garlic Chicken, they probably would stop you.

What’s the best snack to get at CGV in your opinion?
HM: Churros. They cost about 3,500 won. Most people don’t order them. But they’re definitely worth it.

Can you get free refills on sodas?
HM: Yes. Only once though.

Final question: What is the difference between CGV, PRIMUS, and the other theaters? Is any theater better than another? Reputation wise? Quality wise
HM: CGV is definitely the best because there’s so many different chain locations. They have bigger and better screens, and the chairs are more comfortable. Also they have a membership card system, which is easy to use and definitely worth it to get.

What are your opinions on seeing a movie in Korea? Is it better or worse than back home? Leave us your opinion in the comments section below.

Photo Creds: TF-urban