Cineplex profits double on higher priced tickets, more concession sales

TORONTO – Cineplex doubled its profits in the third quarter as the movie exhibitor countered a decline in moviegoers with higher priced tickets and more sales at its concession stands.

Chief executive Ellis Jacob told analysts on Thursday that a strong start to the summer movie season quickly petered out as blockbuster hits like “The Dark Knight Rises” and “The Amazing Spider-Man” were followed by numerous flops.

“With the exception of ‘The Bourne Legacy,’ films in the latter part of the quarter generated softer than expected results,” he said.

Yet the company still managed to strengthen results, on ticket price increases in some regions and overall stronger concession sales, which it attributed to changes in its food selection and better promotions.

Canada’s largest movie theatre operator said that net income rose to $51.7 million, or 83 cents per share, in the three month period ended Sept. 30. The results compared to $25.7 million, or 44 cents per share, in the same period a year earlier.

Revenues grew 1.7 per cent to $281.4 million, beating analyst expectations by about $3 million, and rising about $276.7 million a year earlier.

Concession revenue per person was also up 5.6 per cent to $4.68.

It said that aside from the Top Five films, the rest of the summer movie lineup bombed, including “Total Recall.”

Attendance was down one per cent at its cinemas to 18.3 million tickets sold, but by raising ticket prices in some regions, box office revenue increased to a record $8.84 per person.

Jacob said in an interview that he believes a combination of the NHL hockey lockout and cooler weather in some areas of the country has likely bolstered the box office in the current fourth quarter.

Canadian box-office revenues for five weeks of the fourth-quarter have risen 18.8 per cent over the same time last year, he said.

“I think it might be the quality and the varied film product that’s out there too,” Jacob said.

“It’s movies like ‘Argo’ and ‘Hotel Transylvania’ that have performed extremely well.”

The Toronto-based company has been upgrading to digital projectors as part of a plan to make more of its theatres a “premium” experience. Cineplex has also ramped up the expansion of its higher priced “VIP” theatres that cater exclusively to adults by offering larger seats, menu service, and a licensed auditorium and lounge.

The move is part of a broader expansion at Cineplex of premium priced ticket options, which have helped drive box-office revenue even during quarters when Hollywood movies fell short of expectations.

Cineplex runs 133 theatres located from British Columbia to Quebec with 1,437 screens under its numerous brands which include Cineplex Odeon, Galaxy, Famous Players, Colossus, SilverCity and Scotiabank theatres.

The company has about 10,000 employees.