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The good news from a global box office recovery for movie theater chains is Hollywood tentpoles are back to doing big ticket sales at the local multiplex.
But Cineplex CEO Ellis Jacob says the news for specialty arthouse movies that have underperformed at the multiplex of late, due to COVID-wary older audiences opting for streaming services, is about to get better. Jacob tells The Hollywood Reporter that a rising tide for the movie exhibition sector post-pandemic will lift all boats, including studio specialty product beyond tentpoles.
“As long as our guests are comfortable and they feel safe, even movies like West Side Story, Licorice Pizza, King Richard, they’ll all start to perform. And I think we will continue to do well with those titles,” Jacob said on Friday after the release of his company’s latest financial results.
The Cineplex boss was talking after former Disney CEO Bob Iger recently told the New York Times‘ Kara Swisher that the pandemic had dealt movie theaters a “severe injury that maybe doesn’t heal” as blockbusters are released in theaters and smaller product likely heads straight to streaming services.
Jacob insisted specialty distributors can and will go back to the old ways of doing business post-pandemic as they currently experiment with various release models. Earlier in the day, he told analysts that a return to exclusive theatrical windows, with movies playing in his cinemas before going online, will help build the brand for arthouse specialty movies, as well as tentpoles.
“It’s going to come back to all of the movies performing and being part of the box office. But again, the tentpoles drive the bottom line, both from a box office and concessions perspective,” Jacob argued, mindful of the asymmetrical recovery for movie exhibitors as popcorn movies drive ticket sales.
His comments followed Cineplex shrinking its fourth quarter loss as it grew revenue during the three months to Dec. 31, 2021, despite theater closures and capacity restrictions amid the omicron surge. During its latest financial quarter, Cineplex saw theater attendance rebound during its fourth quarter, which lifted revenues by nearly 500 percent to $300 million, before facing closures and seating capacity restrictions in late December due to the omicron surge.
Before the latest pandemic-era shutdown, Cineplex during the fourth quarter did impressive business with Spider-Man: No Way Home, No Time to Die and Dune on its screens to record the company’s biggest box office of 2021. Christmas box office typically accounts for around 30 percent of Cineplex’s fourth quarter performance.
During the latest quarter, theater attendance jumped to 10.2 million during the latest quarter, against 800,000 in the same period of 2020. That allowed Toronto-based Cineplex to shrunk its fourth quarter loss to $21.8 million, or 34 cents per diluted share, against a year-earlier $230.4 million or $3.64 per diluted share.
Box office revenue rose to $125.9 million, compared to $7.3 million a year earlier when Cineplex theaters were mostly shuttered, and food services revenues spiked to $87.2 million, against a year earlier $10.5 million in the final three months of 2020.
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