Cineworld posts rise in profits

U.K. exhibitor plots growth course

LONDON -- It pays to be an exhibitionist. U.K. exhibitor Cineworld Group, listed on the stock exchange here, on Thursday posted a rise in pretax profits and revenue for 2008.

The second-largest cinema chain operator in the U.K. said that group revenue rose 4.8% to 298.9 million pounds ($416.7 million) during 2008, up from 285.3 million pounds the previous year, its first full year as a publicly listed company.

Pretax profits also rose, hitting 27.6 million pounds ($38.5 million) from 12.4 million pounds previously.

The exhibitor noted that boxoffice tills rang to the tune of 197.5 million pounds ($275 million) during the 12 months ending Dec. 25, up from 185.7 million pounds in 2007 on the back of a small rise in admissions from 45 million to 45.1 million in 2008.

Cineworld CEO Stephen Wiener said he was pleased with the figures given the difficult economic conditions and softening consumer environment.

Wiener also said that he hopes the group's investment in digital technology and an ongoing refurbishing of its sites will bolster the cinema chain's results going forward.

"Whilst the new year has started well for the Group, with strong attendances in a number of small and mid-range films, we are mindful of the challenges that 2009 will present as consumers tighten their belts," Wiener said.

Movies including "Quantum of Solace", "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Crystal Skull," "The Dark Knight", "Sex and the City" and "High School Musical 3" all helped the exhibitor to fill theaters and keep the cash registers ringing.