One of the best things about Korea is that most big Western movies are released in Korea either at the same time or even earlier than back home. Live action features will be subtitled in Korean, leaving the English audio intact. But the main big difference between watching movies in Korea versus back home is the ticketing system. It can be both a blessing and a curse. In this ultimate guide, SeoulSync gives you the ultimate guide to Korean Movie Theaters.

Seating System

In the United States, you buy a ticket at the box office or online and then get the choice to sit anywhere depending on how early you get there. This is good because you can arrive early and get the best seats in the house. On the flip side if you arrive late, you are stuck with what’s left, sometimes putting you quite close to the screen.

In Korea you reserve your seat when you purchase the ticket, and you may only sit in your reserved seat. What’s great here is you can arrive as late as you want and not get stuck with a bad seat; but you can’t change seats if you aren’t happy with it and your favorite seat might be sold out weeks in advanced.

When I lived in the US, I was one of those people that always arrived an hour early for a movie just so I could nab the best seat. My friends hated it, and hated me for it. It really was kind of an OCD thing for me. When I came to Korea and was told about the system here, I was ecstatic. It sounded like all positives to me. And for the most part it is. However, then I tried to see “The Dark Knight Rises”…

Almost all the good seats were sold out for the showtimes the theater had released. My group of eight couldn’t find consecutive seats next to each other. I became frustrated. Every theater in the area was the same. Highly anticipated movies are almost always fully booked before I got to check showtime listings on my smartphone app. Therefore, I learned my lesson with the “Dark Knight Rises”; If you really want to see a movie, book your ticket early. Very early.

How to Book a Ticket

Kiosk Menu

Digital UI Options

  via Kiosk   CGV theaters will have a kiosk (which has an English option). Here you can select the movie you want, along with the format you want to see it in. It might be offered in 2d, 3d, 4DX (more on that later), IMAX, or some other sort of format. After selecting the movie, it will bring up a map of the auditorium it’s being showed in and the seats available.


 via Smartphone App  This is the way most Koreans do it. On the CGV app, you’re able to select the theater closest to you via GPS or you can choose a theater manually. A layout of the auditorium to choose seats will then appear. Then you pay for the ticket(s) on your phone by entering your credit card number, ARC number, and other security information, and then it will spit out a confirmation number. Once you get to the theater, you can just go to a Kiosk, enter your confirmation number, and print out the ticket.

*A note about tickets: Back in the US, a ticket was almost always printed on ticket stock, and had a stub they would tear off. Here a movie ticket looks identical to a receipt. So don’t throw the receipt away once it prints. The theater attendant will check it when you head into your show.


Movie Formats
(the format that the whole audience will see it in)

2D – The standard.

3D – The seemingly new standard for blockbusters.

4DX – Smells, seat vibration, and enhanced audio. Think the California Adventure ride at Disneyland… but with the must of grenades.

SoundDX – Enhanced Sound. Louder, deeper, and more audio channels.

IMAX – IMAX certified projectors and sound system. Screen sizes will vary depending on location.


In-theater Seat Options
(options that certain seats in the theater have available)

seatUI

VEATBOX: Rumble feedback in your chair. If there’s an explosion on screen or a really loud gunshot your chair will rumble. Not shake. But rumble. Don’t worry, if you’re halfway through the movie and don’t like it, there’s a switch on the seat to turn it off (I did so during Oz: The Great and Powerful).

WIDEBOX: People that want a larger seat will sometimes have the option to book their seat in WIDEBOX. The standard seat is 56cm wide, while WIDEBOX seats are 72cm wide.

SWEETBOX: I forgot to mention that movie theaters also tend to be one of the most depressing places in Korea if you are single. Movies are a couple’s attraction (and on weekends there will usually be a fortune teller outside the box office for couples). On top of that “Couple seats” are very popular. It’s like a loveseat sofa, so that you can get all romantic with your partner while seeing a movie. Two people must book. Threesomes are illegal.


Final Note

I can honestly say that Korean theaters are superior versus those in the west for 3 reasons:

1. There’s no sense of urgency involved when going to see a movie. Allowing you play it off as the “cool guy” on a date, rather than being the overly-excited nerdy kid who is sprinting to get the best seat for “The Wolf of Wall Street”.

2. Korea definitely has the most up to date movie theater systems in the world. In the US, we have 3D or no 3D. Korea has 4DX (albeit a tad gimmicky), couple seats, soundDX, and all the other options that make movie watching more of an experience rather than just a viewing. (WARNING: may be a turn off for “artsy” movie snobs).

3. Ticket prices are cheaper. Isn’t that reason good enough?

 

  Seoul Theater Trivia 

The Wangsimni IMAX is the newest and largest IMAX screen in Korea

The Yongsan CGV will periodically have Korean movies with English subtitles from time to time.

Dubbing ( 더빙 ) = The film has Korean dubbing (Audio). Usually only for animated movies.

Jamak ( 자막 ) = Subtitles. Most western movies will have the western audio in tact but have Korean subtitles. Sometimes English movies that have international scenes where another language is being spoken will only have the Korean subtitles and lack the English subtitles. Usually they will have both though.

Image Credit: Tamagoro

What are your experiences at movie theaters around the world? Let us know below!