Cineplex Posts First Pandemic-Era Profit on ‘Top Gun,’ ‘Doctor Strange’ Box Office

Cineplex has turned its first profit since the pandemic started on the strength of rebounding box office in the second quarter from Top Gun: Maverick, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Jurassic World Dominion and Elvis.

Cineplex saw net income swing to $1.3 million in the three months to June 30, against a year-earlier loss of $103.7 million. The 2021 performance included theater closures and theater capacity restrictions during the COVID-19 crisis.  

Revenue at the Toronto-based theater operator came to $349.9 million, a sharp rise from $64.9 million in the first quarter of 2021 as Cineplex hosted 11.1 million patrons during the latest quarter, against 1.1 million in the year-ago period.

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Cineplex CEO Ellis Jacob, on a morning analyst call, said Top Gun: Maverick and Elvis brought older audiences back to Cineplex theaters, and families — a demographic the exhibitor also chased during the pandemic — are also returning.

“Over the next 18 months, you’re going to see a strong return to product that will be diversified enough to appeal to all the different audiences,” Jacob told analysts. He later told THR that the first ten days of August performed better than expected, holding potential for a continuing box office rebound in the third quarter.

But Jacob cautioned the North American market is tempered by the return of students to schools and universities, which impacts the pipeline of movies out of Hollywood. “It’s all product driven, and with COVID there’s a lot of delays in production. We think it will continue to get better,” he added.

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Jacob also discounted the prospect of a recessionary threat undermining visits to the multiplex as consumer tightening spending. “The theatrical business has historically been resistant to recessionary pressures,” Jacob argued as he said movie-going is an affordable alternative for consumers during hard times, compared to other entertainment options.

Also during the analyst call, Jacob said Cineplex is in “active discussions” with streaming platforms to showcase content on his big screens. “Non-traditional studios are forming a new appreciation for the role for a theatrical release and increasing awareness and value for content prior to launching,” the Cineplex head said.

And Jacob pointed to a resurgence of interest in the multiplex as a launchpad for tentpoles by Hollywood studios as the pandemic ebbs, especially at Warner Bros. Discovery where CEO David Zaslav has touted the importance of the exclusive theatrical window, compared to streaming platforms.

“What’s he [Zaslav] is saying is there are ways to maximize value from releasing in theaters, and having appropriate windows and platforms,” Jacob told THR.

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