Cineworld, corporate parent of Regal Cinemas, the second-largest movie theater operator in the U.S., Nov. 15 disclosed that October box office revenue approached 90% of pre-pandemic levels in 2019. The U.K.-based company did not release full quarterly results.
CEO Mooky Greidinger, in a media statement, said movies such as MGM’s latest James Bond actioner, No Time to Die, along with Sony Pictures’ Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Warner Bros.’ Dune, and Disney/Marvel’s Black Widow and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, contributed to a 127% uptick in October revenue compared with 2019.
“We are thrilled to see audiences returning in significant numbers,” Greidinger said. “Our partnerships with the studios are as strong as ever and with the incredible movie slate to come, there are real grounds for optimism in our industry.”
The executive said the winter box office portends ongoing improvement in the exhibition business as moviegoers return to the big screen, especially in the United States, where Regal has revamped theaters to include luxury seating and enhanced safety protocols. This comes after Regal largely shuttered operations during much of the pandemic.
The company was able to secure $400 million in new long-term debt, in addition to getting $203 million in U.S. government pandemic relief funds. Cineworld shuttered 12 underperforming theaters, while securing rental relief from many landlords.
“These new [revamped] cinemas clearly support our strategy to enhance the cinema experience for all our customers,” Greidinger said. “I am really proud of the extraordinary efforts that everybody in the business has made to manage this company during an unprecedented time. Whilst there are challenges ahead, I believe these efforts have positioned us for great success in the future.”
The near future could see increased challenges, according to main rival AMC Theatres, whose CEO Adam Aron warned last week that pending colder temperatures and arrival of the flu season could impact the exhibition business.
“We wish to emphasize that no one should have any illusions that there is not more challenge ahead of us still to be met,” Aron said. “The virus continues to be with us, we need to sell more tickets in future quarters than we did in the most recent quarter.”
The executive’s comments came just days after he cashed out $25 million worth of stock options as part of an expedited personal estate plan.