'Avatar,' 'Alice' help Cineplex post record results

Canadian exhibition giant sees earnings up 158% to $9.5 mil

TORONTO -- The 3D boxoffice hits "Avatar" and "Alice in Wonderland" lifted Canadian exhibition giant Cineplex Galaxy Income Fund to record first quarter results Thursday.

Toronto-based Cineplex saw earnings jump 158% to $9.5 million during the three months to March 31, against earnings of $3.7 million in 2009, on total revenue up 22% to $257.2 million, against a year-earlier $211 million.

Cineplex, which has ridden a wave of Hollywood boxoffice winners during the last six quarters, pulled in 38.3% of its first quarter revenue from "Avatar 3D" and "Alice in Wonderland 3D."

The exhibitor also did good business with "Shutter Island," "Sherlock Holmes" and "Valentines' Day."

But Imax and 3D movies made up just over a third of total first quarter boxoffice revenue, up sharply from the 7% for premium films in the same 2009 reporting period.

And charging more for 3D films helped Cineplex push its average boxoffice revenue per-patron up 9% to $8.88.

To capture this rising 3D tide, the Toronto-based cinema chain installed 50 RealD 3D projection systems during the latest quarter to take it to 199 RealD 3D systems, or 15% of its screens.

Cineplex said it welcomed 18 million Canadians through its turnstiles during the first quarter, against 16 million during the same period of 2009.

During the first quarter, boxoffice revenue jumped 23% to $160.3 million, while concession revenue rose 18.6% to $75 million.

Cineplex's film costs, which varies according to Hollywood titles, rose 32.5% during the latest quarter to $87.3 million as the film settlement rates on its latest boxoffice performers proved higher than average rates.