By Kim Eun-jung
SEOUL, Jan. 19 (Yonhap) -- "Avatar: The Way of Water" is widely expected to top 10 million admissions in South Korea when more moviegoers visit local theaters during the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday season.
The sequel to James Cameron's 2009 sci-fi flick "Avatar" has attracted 9.53 million viewers since its theatrical release on Dec. 14, according to the data from the Korean Film Council (KOFIC).
Industry watchers expect the figure to surpass 10 million during the four-day holiday season that kicks off Saturday, which would make it the second film to reach the milestone since the COVID-19 pandemic following Korean action comedy "The Roundup" last year.
In the country with a population of some 50 million, films that sell 10 million tickets are considered huge successes.
The original "Avatar" attracted 13.6 million moviegoers in South Korea in 2009 to become the most-viewed foreign movie released here.
Experts said the movie's eye-popping visuals and immersive sound, well-blended with compelling storytelling, lured moviegoers to have the best cinematic experiences on big screens.
"Although people watched many movies on streaming services during the pandemic, 'Avatar 2' demonstrates what it means to watch films on the big screen," culture critic Jeong Deok-hyun said.
According to leading multiplex operator CGV, over 60 percent of the movie's ticket sales were from 3D and premium screens, such as IMAX, 4D and ScreenX.
The IMAX format, which features a wider screen and advanced sound system, accounted for 15.5 percent of the overall ticket sales. The 4D format, which combines 3D visuals with motion seats and environmental effects, came next with 12 percent, and ScreenX, a panoramic format with expanded screens projected on the walls, took up 5.1 percent.
As a result, the Hollywood blockbuster helped boost year-end box-office sales amid a pandemic-related slump last year.
Local box office sales reached 157.6 billion won (US$127.2 million) in December, jumping 148.4 percent from a month earlier, KOFIC's data showed. Among them, "Avatar 2" raked in 90.3 billion won to account for more than half of the total.