Cineplex posts Q4 loss

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TORONTO -- Despite record earnings for the full year in 2007, weak performance from a number of Hollywood releases at year's end led Canadian exhibition giant Cineplex Entertainment to post a fourth-quarter loss on Thursday.

Toronto-based Cineplex, which operates 131 multiplexes nationwide with 1,327 screens, said it lost CAN$2.77 million ($2.74 million) during the three months ending Dec. 31, compared with a profit of $4.6 million in 2006.

Fourth-quarter revenue at Canada's largest cinema chain was down 6.3% to CAN$182.6 million ($180 million), against a year-earlier $195 million as overall Canadian box fell 15.7% during the last three months of 2007.

Movies like "I Am Legend" and "American Gangster" performed well in Canada, but not as well as in U.S. theaters. As a result, the top 15 films at the Canadian boxoffice during the fourth quarter saw their North American share slip to 8%, compared with a 10% share in the same period of 2006, when movies like "Casino Royale" and "Borat" dominated the Canadian boxoffice.

At the same time, overall Canadian theatrical boxoffice rose 1.3% during the first three quarters of 2007, compared with the same period in 2006. That helped Cineplex Entertainment post record earnings of CAN $26.5 million ($26.2 million) for full-year 2007, up sharply for a profit of CAN$7.8 million in 2006.

Full-year revenue rose 8% to CAN$805 million ($796.3 million) in 2007, against a year-earlier CAN$740.2 million. Boxoffice revenue in 2007 rose 6.5%, or $30 million, to CAN$488.9 million.

Boxoffice hits like "Transformers," "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," "The Bourne Ultimatum" and "The Simpsons Movie" helped Cineplex Entertainment post its most profitable quarter ever during the third quarter of 2007.

Full-year concession revenue rose CAN$21.6 million ($21.3 million), or 10%, to CAN$235.1 million ($232.5 million).

Other revenue, including in-theater advertising and online advertising, jumped 19.4% for the year ending Dec. 31, increasing $13.1 million over 2006, or 19.4%, to $81 million.

Going forward, Cineplex Entertainment CEO Ellis Jacob told financial analysts during a morning conference call that the first five weeks of fiscal 2008 has seen boxoffice jump 15.8%.

In addition, the exhibitor has received "a bit of a bounce" in theatrical attendance owing to increased TV reruns during the WGA strike.

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