No Hollywood Performers Hits Canadian Exhibitor Cineplex

Courtesy of The Weinstein Company

The lingering Avatar effect leads to a first quarter loss for Canada's biggest cinema chain as 'The King's Speech' is best surprise box-office performer.

TORONTO -- As with its U.S. exhibition rivals, Canadian cinema chain Cineplex saw box office results in the first quarter disappoint when put against a record-breaking first quarter of 2010 when it had Avatar 3D and Alice in Wonderland 3D on its screens.

But Cineplex CEO Ellis Jacob credits a diversification of his company's base away from Hollywood movies, taking the company into media advertising and alternative entertainment like live opera and theatre, concerts and sports, for saving the quarter.

“We did way better than our U.S. rivals with our media business, our loyalty business, which helped us minimize the impact of not having the same level of films,” Jacob said Thursday.

First quarter revenue fell 13.3 per cent to $221.4 million, as theatre attendance fell 14.6 per cent to 15.3 million patrons.

The Kings Speech contributed 7 per cent of Cineplex's box office during the latest quarter, compared to 25 per cent of box office from Avatar 3D in the first quarter of 2010.

Falling attendance also hit key concession sales, which fell 12.3% to $65.15 million.

But Jacob cautioned that Cineplex’s bottom line – posting a loss of $800,000, against a year-earlier profit of $3.8 million – was caused by a one-time $6 million tax charge to convert from an income fund to an Ontario-based corporation.

“This is not a shabby quarter,” Jacob insisted, as he also looks out to a promising Hollywood movie pipeline for the rest of 2011.

Cineplex operates 131 theatres with 1,362 screens countrywide.