Many cinemas in South Korea have replaced their human staff with AI robots, automated kiosks and mobile app services to prevent contact and to protect staff and customers from COVID-19.

CJ CGV, the country’s largest multiplex cinema chain, turned its Yeouido branch into a completely contactless venue in April, with no human contact necessary to reserve, pick up, or scan tickets.

In addition, the branch replaced snack bars with LED-controlled pick-up boxes that deliver food items ordered through CGV’s app.

“It is predicted that moviegoers’ demand for un-tact (contactless) [services in cinema] will also grow as a part of the new normal,” said Oh Dae-sik, head of CJ CGV’s smart innovation team, Variety reports.

“We will monitor feedback from visitors and operations, and consider expanding the un-tact cinema system, which is expected to enhance the level of convenience for our customers as well as the efficiency of cinema operation.”

In March, the company was force to close 35 theatres nationwide due to poor ticket sales amid coronavirus. CJ CGV opted to stay open at this point, despite welcoming very few visitors, which later let to its decision to shutter around 30 per cent of its screens to save costs.

Lotte Cinema, another South Korean chain, has also adopted the contactless experience approach in 22 of its 130 complexes.

According to the Korean Film Council, the South Korean box office is currently running at five per cent of 2019 levels. Major releases of local and foreign movies have been pushed back, and for now cinemas are largely relying on smaller films and re-releases.

At the end of April, the Korean box office was up just over 15 per cent from its record low two weeks prior after only 116,000 tickets were sold.

Image: GohRo