Harry Potter magic lifts Cineworld

CINEWORLD yesterday said it had started the second half strongly, with the latest Harry Potter film fuelling an increase in ticket sales.

The group has hiked its dividend despite a drop in first-half profit, triggered by one-off costs.

Revenues rose one per cent to £163.6m in the six months to the end of June.

Operating profits fell by £1.8m to £13m, due in part to the cost of cinema conversions to cope with digital and 3D films.

The first-half costs include a provision of £1.1m for conversions in the second half and next year.

Cineworld saw 2.2 per cent rise in admissions in the first half while the second half figure will reflect the success of The Deathly Hallows Part 2 – the final instalment in the Harry Potter series.

However a lack of 3D releases took some steam out of the group’s performance, which had previously been boosted by blockbusters like Avatar.

A total of 478 screens across 78 sites are now digital and 400 of those support 3D technology.

Steve Weiner, the company’s founder and chief executive, said he hoped “the ongoing conversion... will enable us to further capitalise on the strong line-up of 3D releases in the fourth quarter.”

Mission Impossible 4, Sherlock Holmes 2 and the latest in the Twilight series were part of a strong set of non-3D films coming to theatres in the second half, the firm said.

Cineworld also said its search continued for a new chief financial officer after Richard Jones, a 15-year veteran of the company, resigned in June. The company’s purchase of Spain’s Cinesur has not yet completed, the company said, adding “We believe that the Spanish cinema market has certain attractions”.