Canada's Cineplex Posts Lower Fourth Quarter Earnings

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A weak Hollywood film slate saw Oscar contenders like "American Hustle" and "12 Years a Slave" do better in the U.S. market than among Canadian cinema-goers.

TORONTO – The crime caper American Hustle and antebellum drama 12 Years a Slave may lead the field for the 2014 Academy Awards.

But those Oscar contenders haven't performed at the Canadian box office like they have south of the border.

Domestic exhibition giant Cineplex Entertainment posted a sharply low fourth-quarter profit on Tuesday amid weaker box-office results for Hollywood titles.

Toronto-based Cineplex saw earnings for the three months ending on December 31 come in at CAN$20.2 million (US$18.8 million), off 38 percent from CAN$32.7 million (US$29.6 million) profit in 2012, on overall revenue that was up 8 percent to CAN$323.2 million ($292.5 million) after recent new theater acquisitions in Atlantic Canada.

The latest quarter saw box office drivers like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug fail to keep pace with prior-year performers like the James Bond franchise thriller Skyfall, which did 15 percent of its North American business in Canada.

That's well above its 10 percent average for the Canadian market.

"In 2013, we did have performers, but not to the degree of last year," said Cineplex president and CEO Ellis Jacob.

Gravity did 10 percent of its North American box office in Canada during the run-up to Christmas 2014, and the latest Hobbit installment was on par with the performance of The Hobbit: An Unxexpected Journey in Canada last year.

Cineplex was also undercut during the latest quarter by Hollywood titles like The Best Man Holiday, Tyler Perry's A Medea and Saving Mr. Banks, which did better in the U.S. market than with Canadian cinema-goers.

And last year, Cineplex had Oscar movies like Argo, Life of Pi and Silver Linings Playbook that outperformed for the exhibitor with Canadians.

This year's Oscar contenders, like American Hustle and 12 Years a Slave, did not deliver the same numbers in Canada as they did south of the border.

Cineplex offset the weaker film slate with higher premium ticket pricing and record concession revenues.

The average ticket price during the latest quarter was CAN$9.42 (US$8.52), up from a year ago, when it averaged CAN$9.18 (US$8.31).

Tickets for 3D, Imax and other premium offerings represented just over 40 percent of Cineplex's box office during the latest quarter, versus 29.2 percent during the same period in 2012.