A movie goer makes his way to a theatre at a Cineplex in Toronto, on Tuesday, October 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

A movie goer makes his way to a theatre at a Cineplex in Toronto, on Tuesday, October 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Cineplex tries to woo moviegoers with theatre rentals after 91% drop in tickets sold

Earlier, Cineplex reported a net loss of $121.2 million or $1.91 per share

Canada’s largest theatre saw 91 per cent fewer moviegoers during the summer compared with last year, pushing the company to roll out new offerings for film lovers.

Cineplex Inc. said Friday that only 1.6 million people visited the movies during its third quarter, down from 17.5 million in the third quarter of 2019.

To lure moviegoers back, the company will heavily market affordable private theatre rentals ahead of the holiday season. It will also cut back on new projects and try to further reduce real estate and payroll costs with the sale of its head office in Toronto and the federal government’s wage subsidy program.

“We’ve done all the things we can to make sure we get through, and we feel strongly about the exhibition industry’s ability to recover,” Ellis Jacob, Cineplex’s president and chief executive, told The Canadian Press.

Earlier, Cineplex reported a net loss of $121.2 million or $1.91 per share, down from the $13.4-million or 21-cents-per-share profit it reported last year at the same time.

The chain’s revenue was $61 million in the three months ending Sept. 30, down from $418.4 million during the same period in 2019.

Analysts expected Cineplex to lose $57.3 million or $1.31 per share, according to financial data firm Refinitiv.

The company has been rapidly trying to reverse such results, which were triggered by waning audiences amid temporary theatre closures ordered by public health officials in COVID-19 hot spots.

Cineplex’s efforts to cope with pandemic changes have included raising an extra $303 million in credit, materially reducing net cash lease outflows by about $58 million and pursuing the sale of its head office location with the potential for a leaseback transaction.

“We completed a thorough review of our rights under our lease agreements and where we thought we had attractive rights, we approached landlords to monetize some of these rights,” chief financial officer Gord Nelson told analysts on a Friday call.

Cineplex has also temporarily laid off staff, slashed salaries and used $22.5 million from the government’s wage subsidy plan to reduce payroll expenses to $3.9 million during the quarter, down from $40.9 million at the same time last year.

On Friday, it introduced private auditorium rentals for as low as $125.

The venture will allow up to 20 guests to enjoy a film together while distancing and will include a choice of 1,000 movies including holidays hits “the Grinch” and “Love Actually.”

“We wanted to get it out there because it gives guests another opportunity and we’ve done it to so you can get a movie at an accessible price point, you can buy it online which makes it a lot easier and you can have a great social experience,” Jacob said.

However, returning to 2019 levels of revenue is still expected to be tough.

Cineplex is suing Cineworld, a U.K. based theatre operator that was due to buy Cineplex for $2.8 billion.

Cineworld walked away from the deal on June 12, saying it had become aware of a material adverse effect and breaches by Cineplex, which has vehemently denied the accusations.

Meanwhile, local health rules have greatly reduced the number of moviegoers Cineplex can welcome at a time and the chain has had to pay for rose sanitization and the costs that come with physically distancing guests and protecting staff..

In Maritime provinces, Alberta and British Columbia, Jacob said audiences have been returning to theatres faster than elsewhere and in some places where Remembrance Day was a holiday, Cineplex saw a spike in attendance.

Those who made visits have seen few of the big blockbusters originally planned for the year because studios and distributors have been pulling new releases and rescheduling them for 2021, when they hope the virus will be more contained.

Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” was one of the few new features moviegoers were treated to. Cineplex screened the film ahead of it being released to U.S. audiences — a rarity in the movie world.

One of the last major releases that has yet to be moved from this year is the sequel to “Wonder Woman,” which Jacob said he has been talking to Warner Bros about.

Some believe the studio will move its release until next year. If they do, Cineplex still has other movies coming like the Toronto International Film Festival’s People’s Choice Award winner “Nomadland” and “News of the World” starring Tom Hanks.

“When I look at 2021, I think holy crow, I am going to be going to the movie theatre every night,” Jacob said.

For those unwilling to visit a theatre during the pandemic, Cineplex has long offered home movie rentals and delivery of concession stand favourites like popcorn via Uber Eats or SkipTheDishes.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusMovies

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Gregory Ould, co-founder and executive director of Blanket BC, drops off warming blankets to Our Home on Eighth shelter in Port Alberni during a tour of Vancouver Island on Feb. 19, 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Blanket BC delivers warmth, hope to Vancouver Island’s homeless

Gregory Ould donated blankets, toques in five communities

Construction takes place on Bamfield Main in early February 2021. (PHOTO COURTESY CTV NEWS)
Closures planned for Bamfield Road

Construction by Mosaic unrelated to $30M upgrade

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

The Alberni Valley’s Emergency Operations Centre is located around the corner and below the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District office. (AV NEWS FILE PHOTO)
Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District tests new mobile alert system

Residents can still sign up for free Voyent Alert! emergency messaging

Crews respond to a structure fire in the 6000 block of Renton Road in Cherry Creek on Saturday, Feb. 27. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Workshop destroyed in Cherry Creek fire

Crews stayed on scene overnight fighting ‘stubborn’ blaze

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

Activists from the Fairy Creek Blockades hold the injunction application notice which was submitted by logging company Teal Jones to the B.C. Supreme Court. The application, which asks to have blockaders removed from the sites that stop access to cut blocks, is set to be heard on March 4. (Photo contributed/Joshua Wright)
Activists hunker down to protect Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew from logging

Forest company Teal Cedar applies for injunction to remove seven-month-old blockades

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Most Read