Canada's Cineplex Boosts Fourth-Quarter Earnings Amid Weak Box Office

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Higher concession and digital advertising sales offset the impact of lower grosses for the latest 'The Hobbit' and 'Hunger Games' installments.

Weak box office for Hollywood titles heading into the 2014 Christmas holiday season failed to depress earnings at Canadian exhibition giant Cineplex Entertainment.

The Toronto-based chain posted earnings up 60 percent to CAN$32.1 million (US$25.7 million), compared to earnings of CAN$20.2 million in 2013. Overall revenue rose 2.8 percent to $332.2 million (US$266.1 million), as higher concession and digital advertising sales offset the impact of lower box office grosses.

Cineplex had 19 million patrons during the latest quarter, just up from 18.9 million customers during the same period last year. But box office per patron was down 3.8 percent to CAN$9.06 (US$7.25), as there were fewer 3D releases on offer and the best box-office performers during the latest quarter failed to perform as well as year-earlier predecessors.

Cineplex saw The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies do proportionally less box office during the latest quarter, compared to the same period of 2013 when The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug played on its screens.

"We had a lot of Oscar contenders, but we didn't have Frozen, which was one of the biggest grossing family pictures [in 2013]," Cineplex CEO Ellis Jacob told The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday.

The Canadian cinema chain has aimed in recent years to mitigate the box-office volatility of Hollywood studio releases on its screen by diversifying into digital advertising, live opera and other alternative programming, e-commerce and gaming centers.