11 May 2022
This week’s Marquee editorial comes to you from both our editor, Patrick von Sychowski, and myself.
Looking at the earnings announcements made by some of the leading companies in the exhibition industry over the past two weeks one could easily grow increasingly pessimistic seeing all the red ink. Indeed, while not solidly in the black, the ink is far less red than it was this time last year. Let’s call it burgundy… or maroon.
That’s because what these recent earnings illustrate is that the market is recovering, despite the quarterly losses. AMC Theatres, which operates cinemas on three continents narrowed its from USD $567 million in the first quarter of 2021 to USD $337.4 million last quarter. Thanks to revenue of USD $785.7 million, the world’s top exhibition chain lowered its EBITDA loss to USD $61 million. AMC thus managed to beat analyst expectations.
Cinemark, North America’s third largest exhibitor, which also operates theatres throughout Latin America, also started 2022 off more positively, or at least less negatively. Sure, the theatre chain lost USD $74 million in the first quarter of the year, but that was USD $134 million better than they did during the same period one year earlier. That is likely due to a 303% increase in revenue from USD $235.8 million in admissions and USD $173.0 million in concession sales.
Meanwhile in India, the largest cinema chain PVR saw quarterly revenue of USD $71.58 million, up from USD $24.68 million for the same time last year. Yes, it is still losing money, but “only” USD $2.29 million, which is a heck of a lot less than the USD $15.28 a year ago. Instead PVR wanted to talk about how average ticket prices were the highest they’ve ever been, that spend-per-head is up and the company’s merger with INOX is set for completion by the end of this year. Everything’s coming up lotuses!
Losses at IMAX are also headed in the right direction, a year-over-year decrease to USD $13.6 million last quarter. Thanks to superhero blockbusters released during the first three months of 2022, like “The Batman,” global box office improved to USD $173.2 million for the premium large format leader increasing revenue by 55% to USD $60 million during the time frame.
Meanwhile the top brass at Cineworld is breathing easier, after obtaining undertakings to waive from bondholders that were due in 2025, relating to the dissenting shareholders of Regal. Yet despite, or perhaps because of all the maroon ink across the latest results, the share price of many cinema businesses are stubbornly low. Shares in AMC Theatres are down 78% since their meme peak in July 2021. They have lost 49% this year. (That’s a lot of unhappy apes.) Cineworld shares are not doing well either, languishing at GBP £26, whereas six months ago they were soaring at GBP £67. The only one doing well on this front is PVR, whose share price is up 32% so far this year.
In fact, Wall Street turning against cinema operators just as the industry realizes some normalcy is a development that both the tech companies running streaming services and exhibitors can commiserate over.
AMC Theatres, the world’s largest movie theatre chain, reported its financial results for the first quarter of 2022 ending 31 March. They company lost USD $337.4 million during the three month span ending 31 March, which sounds bad on the face of it, but when compared to the USD $567 loss AMC suffered during the same period in 2021, it’s an improvement.
It’s the same story for AMC’s revenue, which jumped to USD $785.7 million for the quarter over the USD $148.3 million taken in during Q1 of 2021. EBITDA for the same period improved by USD $233 million to a loss of USD $61.7 million, far better than the USD $294.7 million reported in the first quarter of last year. All told the company lost USD $0.52 cents per share, however like the rest of AMC’s financials, that figure beat Wall Street expectations.
Addressing investors and analysts during an earning’s call on Monday, Adam Aron, the CEO of AMC, said, “What a difference a year makes. We are especially encouraged that when they come to our theaters, our guests have been spending like never before, with revenues per patron through the roof at AMC up 34% above pre-pandemic norms and meaningfully higher than was seen at our largest competitors.”
One of the products patrons are purchasing at AMC Theatres is popcorn. Aron says that the AMC still plans on selling its own popcorn in retail outlets sometime before the end of the year. In addition, the company is in talks to offer a co-branded credit card. Looking at the release schedule for the remainder of the year, Aron believes box office will improve with each successive quarter.
South Korea has become the last major global cinema territory to see a strong recovery, thanks to a combination of Marvel and a lifting of restrictions. “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” scored an impressive USD $29.1 million five-day opening, off a USD $14.4 million opening weekend, over the Golden Holiday. The film was helped by the easing of restrictions on seating and a lifting of a ban on eating and drinking in cinemas. However, customers have complained about a lack of service as staffing levels in cinemas are just half of their pre-pandemic level.
Total attendance in Korea for the whole of May is now expected to exceed 10 million, which would be a first in Korea since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ticket sales had slumped in the previous months of 2022, dropping from 5.72 million in January, to February’s 3.28 million, March 2.8 million, and April 3.12 million, marking a disappointing start to the year.
The success of the latest Marvel film in South Korea has not been without problems, however, with many audiences complaining about poor service at the multiplexes. This is because the major Korean cinema chain laid off a significant proportion of their staff during the pandemic. Cinemas are currently operating with only around half of their pre-pandemic staff levels, with no sign of the shortage being reversed any time soon. Attention is instead switching to increasing automation. Korea’s largest cinema chain CJ CGV had 3,558 employees in 2021, compared to a pre-pandemic 2019 level of 7,068. Read the full story on Celluloid Junkie.
India’s largest cinema operator PVR used the latest earnings announcement to announce its expansion plan. For the coming financial year the multiplex chain intends to open 125 screens across India, kickstarting an aggressive expansion plan after an extended Covid-induced hiatus. In the last financial year PVR opened just 29 screens across five sites.
PVR plans to spend up to INR 400 crore (USD $51.72 million) on the expansion, which will be funded out of its available liquidity of INR 667 crore (USD $86.24 million), including undrawn capital lines with lender.
“We are doubling down on our investments, and if everything goes as planned, this year we will break our record of the maximum number of screens openings in a year in India,”Ajay Bijli, CMD of PVR
PVR acknowledged that January and February were loss-making months, due to Covid restrictions, but that March was very good, both in terms of admissions and in terms of food and beverage sales. The company had 9 million admission in March and almost 22% operating margins, it claimed.
Quarterly revenue was INR 553.56 crore (USD $71.58 million), up from INR 190.86 crore (USD $24.68 million) in the same quarter last year. EBITDA loss was reduced to INR 17.69 crore (USD $2.29 million) from INR 118.21 crore (USD $15.28 million in the same quarter 2021. PVR saw its highest-ever quarterly average ticket price (ATP) of INR 242 (USD $3.13) and spends per head (SPH) of INR 122 (USD $1.51) on the back of a strong film slate of both Bollywood and regional Indian titles.
PVR is in the process of merging with India’s second largest multiplex operator INOX Leisure and hopes to have the process concluded by 31 December this year.
The Economic Times
One of Europe’s largest theatre chains, Cinémas Pathé Gaumont, operates 133 theaters with more than 1,300 screens in France, the Benelux region and Switzerland. At least 100 of those auditoriums are premium theatres, with the circuit dominating IMAX, Dolby Cinema and 4DX screens in the region.
With the exhibition industry recovering from the pandemic, Cinémas Pathé Gaumont is looking to expand in ways that lean into the premium experience.
The company’s CEO, Aurélien Bosc, told Variety, “Offering the highest quality technologies combined with ever greater comfort seems the most relevant path to follow.” To that end Cinémas Pathé Gaumont is in the midst of a USD $500 million modernization plan which will “refurbish existing theaters and develop new and premium offerings.”
As well, the company will utilize its customer data not only to communicate with customers, something it did during COVID shutdowns, but also as a means to market more effectively to increase admissions. Bosc hopes that means Cinémas Pathé Gaumont can partner with Hollywood studios more frequently and earlier on in the release of a film.
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