Profit growth for Cineworld on hit movies

CINEWORLD has big plans for the year ahead after a string of blockbusters took pre-tax profits up 10 per cent to £33.4m in 2011, on 1.5 per cent increased revenues of £348m.

Box office takings at the UK’s top cinema chain grew 2.7 per cent to £242.1m as 48.3m people (up 2.3 per cent) walked through its doors.

But while the film industry is withstanding economic headwinds, cinema-goers are spending less on popcorn and drinks. Retail sales – making 23 per cent of total revenues – were flat at £81.6m as spend per person fell 4p.

“People are tightening their belts,” Cineworld chief executive Steve Wiener told City A.M. “But nothing is getting cheaper these days, and if we bring down food and drink prices we’ll have to make it up on the ticket price.”

Despite a slow start to 2012 and the expected hit from this summer’s major sporting events, Cineworld is bullish about the year ahead.

“There will be so many more people in the UK for the Olympics – some will have free time. And with the new Twi-light and Bond films, the second half of this year will be big,” Wiener said.

The group plans to extend The Screening Rooms, its upmarket premium cinema, despite a sluggish start since its June launch in Cheltenham.

And after its attempt to purchase a Spanish cinema group fell through, Cineworld has its eye on Europe for another opportunity for international expansion. Wiener worked across Europe for Warner Bros, “so we wouldn’t be going in blindly,” he said.