Boxoffice going strong for Canada's Cineplex

Operator of 130 multiplexes reports Q4 profit of $5.7 mil

TORONTO -- Cinemagoing remains recession-proof in Canada, judging by the latest earnings from domestic movie theater giant Cineplex Galaxy Income Fund.

Toronto-based Cineplex, which operates 130 multiplexes countrywide, said Thursday that it swung to a fourth-quarter profit of CAN$7.1 million ($5.7 million), compared with a loss of CAN$2.8 million in 2008.

Revenue for the three months to Dec. 31 was up 16% to CAN$211.4 million ($170 million), as total theater attendance rose 16.5% as a record 15.2 million Canadians came through the turnstiles.

The crowd-pull for Cineplex was better Hollywood movie product, including the latest James Bond installment "Quantum of Solace" and the teen vampire pic "Twilight."

And the Canadian exhibitor managed higher concession sales in hard times, with the average patron shelling out CAN$4.03 ($3.24) for candy and popcorn, against CAN$3.87 in 2008.

Cineplex president and CEO Ellis Jacob told financial analysts that the exhibitor in 2008, buoyed by boxoffice from such giants as "The Dark Knight" and "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," racked up records for attendance, boxoffice, concession sales other revenue streams.

And Jacob predicted even better business this coming year after Hollywood studios moved tentpole releases like "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek" and "Angels and Demons" to summer 2009.

Cineplex is also looking forward to increased business from Hollywood 3-D movie titles, which command a premium ticket price that Jacob said will hold up during the current consumer downturn.