Hollywood flop 'Ben-Hur' a cinematic hurdle for Cineplex in third quarter

TORONTO – Even the colossal Hollywood flop “Ben-Hur” and fumbled franchise spinoff “Ghostbusters” couldn’t hold back Cineplex Inc. from improved profits in the crucial summer months.

Canada’s largest movie theatre chain delivered a 21.3-per cent boost in net income during the third quarter, helped by more cinemagoers buying premium-priced tickets to 3D movies, Imax screenings and its VIP theatres.

But it wasn’t exactly a quarter to boast about on the theatrical side, with a number of hyped movies fizzling out on opening weekend.

Overall attendance dipped one per cent to 19.2 million moviegoers in the July to September period.

“There were a few ones that were very disappointing, like ‘Ben-Hur,’ which everybody expected to do business, but just didn’t deliver,” said Cineplex chief executive Ellis Jacob in an interview.

“That one was a challenge.”

The testosterone-fuelled remake of the 1959 Charlton Heston classic wasn’t the only dud to emerge from the late summer months.

Family flick “Ice Age: Collision Course” left theatres almost as quickly as it arrived, while “Ghostbusters” was a disappointment. Others like “War Dogs” and “Blair Witch” were merely cinematic footnotes on a busy calendar of titles.

DC Comics superhero adventure “Suicide Squad” managed to be the quarter’s biggest title, overcoming a rash of terrible reviews to prove it had legs with younger audiences. It represented 12 per cent of quarterly box-office revenues.

Other big hits included “The Secret Life of Pets” and “Star Trek Beyond.”

Cineplex’s results included higher box-office revenue of $9.37 per patron, which was up from $8.89 in the same period of last year. Overall revenue rose 14 per cent to $376 million.

Cineplex’s media division, which houses its digital signage business for retailers and its in-house advertising, saw revenues jump 16.2 per cent to $29.1 million. The improvement was driven mainly by new contracts signed to install its digital food menu boards at chains like Dairy Queen and A&W Canada.

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