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Canadian cinema giant Cineplex has launched a discounted movie ticket program, CineClub, where members can receive one regular admission ticket for $9.99 a month and receive discounts on concessions and other benefits.
Cineplex CEO Ellis Jacob told The Hollywood Reporter the launch of CineClub aimed to help bring film lovers back to his theaters countrywide as the pandemic eases. “We have seen a huge amount of support from our groups of guests coming back to our theaters, and already seen a huge influx of sign-ups,” he said.
CineClub follows U.S. exhibitors earlier rolling out their own discounted movie ticket programs amid changing moviegoing habits only accelerated by the pandemic. Cineplex has also lagged its North American peers in launching a movie subscription program as it has had in place a free loyalty program, The Scene, that rewarded members with free movie and concession snacks and other exclusive offers.
Cineplex, as it released its latest financial results on Thursday, saw overall revenues rise 195 percent to CAN$65 million (US$51.5 million), against a year-earlier $22 million, as its Canadian circuit gradually reopened during the three months to June 30.
The Canadian exhibitor hosted 1.4 million patrons during its latest quarter, compared to virtually no business in the prior period when Cineplex theaters were mostly shuttered amid pandemic-era closures, except for six screens in Alberta that remained open in June 2020.
Cineplex saw its biggest box office during the latest financial quarter from F9: The Fast Saga, A Quiet Place Part II and The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It. At the same time, Cineplex saw its quarterly loss widen slightly to CAN$103.7 million (US$82.8 million), or $1.64 (US$1.31) per-share, due in part to non-cash impairment charges. That compares to a year-earlier $98.9 million loss, or $1.55 per-share.
And the Canadian exhibitor warned that any return to normalcy post-pandemic could be delayed by an expected fourth wave of COVID infections expected in the Fall due to the Delta variant and any changes to the current tentpole release schedules of the Hollywood studios.
“… If the return to more regular business continues to be delayed for longer than currently anticipated as a result of actions outside of the control of management, including but not limited to additional changes to the film slate release schedule, ongoing government restrictions impacting the re-opening of entertainment venues and future impacts caused by more transmissible variants, management’s estimates of operating results and further cash flows for the forecasted period may be negatively impacted,” Cineplex said in a statement.
During a morning analyst call, Jacob talked about the major studios and domestic exhibitors on a number of fronts effectively shortening theatrical release windows, a trend that has accelerated amid the pandemic as consumers increasingly turn to streaming services. “While windows may be changing, they’re not disappearing,” as an exclusive theatrical window benefits all industry partners, he told analysts.
Jacob added that, looking to 2022, the Hollywood studios were broadly looking at a 45-day minimum theatrical window. And certain tentpoles like Warner Bros.’s The Suicide Squad opened in Canada theatrically and without any competition from HBO Max’s day-and-date releasing strategy.
In the U.S. market, Warner Bros. and DC’s The Suicide Squad opened to a less-than-expected $26.5 million from 4,002 North American theaters amid challenges posed by the Delta variant and a hybrid theatrical-home launch.
Jacob also touched on upcoming litigation after UK-based Cineworld Group, which owns the Regal Entertainment chain stateside, and pulled out of a $2.1 billion deal to acquire the Canadian circuit. The Cineplex boss said a lawsuit aimed at Cineworld will be heard during a trial expected to begin on Sept. 13, with a decision likely to come a few months later.
“We’re confident in our case, but can’t speculate in terms of an outcome,” Jacob added. The Canadian company launched the lawsuit against Cineworld over the abandoned deal, which would have created one of the world’s largest cinema companies with more than 11,200 screens globally.
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