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

Just Posted

Soccer games returned to Max Turyk in Fernie this May and June, after a year-long break due to COVID. (Contributed by Yori Jamin)
Fernie kids get stuck into soccer

Youth soccer games returned to Max Turyk for May and June after a year-long break

A small scale example of how big the maximus dinosaur is compared to Sparwood's Titan truck. (Image courtesy of District of Sparwood)
Sparwood goes digging for fossils (maybe)

The district is exploring options that could see it acquire a giant dinosaur skeleton

Pride and Transgender flags wave on the lawn of Fernie's City Hall. (Soranne Floarea/ The Free Press)
Fernie Pride launches inclusivity survey

The survey will help identify gaps in supports for the LGBTQ2+ community in the Elk Valley

The freshly re-painted rainbow crossings in Fernie in 2021. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Rainbow crossings come to Fernie

Volunteers painted the crossings at 3rd Ave and 5th Street in Fernie in pride colours

Coal Creek and forested land near Fernie, B.C. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Elk Valley Regional Land Trust inks deal with Community Foundation of Kootenay Rockies

Donations to the trusts project to secure forested land in the Elk Valley can now be made through the CFKR

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

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

Grace (left), a caribou that was born in a maternal pen north of Revelstoke, is alive and well said the province. It appears she even has a calf. Maternity pens aim to increase caribou calf survival by protecting them from predation until they are older and less vulnerable. (Contributed)
For the first time in years, caribou numbers increasing near Revelstoke

North herd growing but south herd still concerning

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

Kelowna General Hospital. (File photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna General Hospital declared over

Three people tested positive for the virus — two patients and one staff — one of whom died

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Most Read