Shares in Cineworld pushed higher this morning after the cinema chain hailed a strong opening weekend in the UK following the easing of Covid lockdown measures.
The cinema chain said its performance was led by the success of family hit Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, starring James Corden.
Cineworld, which also owns the upmarket Picturehouse chain, said the weekend’s trading “went beyond our expectations”, adding that punters also splashed out on concession goods such as popcorn.
Shares were up more than 3.5 per cent in early trading this morning.
The company said it was hoping for further strong performance this weekend with the release of Cruella and A Lquiet Place 2.
The world’s second largest cinema chain has also opened a further 167 sites in the US, meaning over 97 per cent of its venues in the country have resumed operations.
The company’s cinemas in Poland and Israel will reopen at the end of the week and Cineworld said it expected most venues to be up and running by the end of the month.
In a further boost to its finances, Cineworld said it had received the full $203m (£143m) tax refund under the US CARES Act — a $2.2 trillion Covid support package passed by former president Donald Trump.
“We are thrilled to have our cinemas back in business in the US and UK and to welcome movie fans back to the big screen for an exciting and full slate of films,” said chief executive Mooky Greidinger.
“When combined with improving consumer confidence and the success of the vaccination rollout, we expect a good recovery in attendance over the coming months, noting the record breaking success of F9 in the Asian market.”
Cineworld has been forced to raise almost $1bn in fresh funding to help it avoid collapse after plunging to a $2.65bn loss last year as a result of closures during the pandemic.
Cinema owners have also been forced to contend with the rising popularity of streaming services, sparking fears that film producers could bypass the big screen and release new titles on demand.
But in March Cineworld signed an exclusive deal with Warner Bros to show its films from opening, granting the chain a 45-day window of exclusivity from next year.
In the UK a deal has been signed with Warner Bros giving the company a 31-day exclusive window before films are available to stream.
This will be extended to 45 days for films that open with a pre-agreed box office threshold.