UK: Cineworld hoping for Bond boost in second half

JAMES Bond is expected to do more than save the world this year as the UK’s largest cinema operator looks to the secret agent’s latest adventure to boost waning audiences.

Cineworld said today that its box office admissions fell by 0.8% in the 26 weeks to June 28, although revenues held up as the group increased average ticket prices by 5% to �5.15.

The group, which has a total of 811 screens at 79 cinemas, with its locations in the eastern region including Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, Haverhill and Braintree, said it was in line to meet full year expectations due to a strong second-half film line-up including the latest Bond film Skyfall, The Hobbit and the final instalment of the vampire romance Twilight series.

Cineworld chief executive Stephen Wiener said: “The timing of these releases means that trade is expected to be strongest in the last two months of the year.”

Cineworld said total revenues were 1.1% higher at �165.4 million in the half year, while operating profits increased by 21.5% to �15.8 million.

The start of the second half, including the Olympics period, had performed in line with expectations with key titles including The Amazing Spiderman, Ice Age 4 and the final Batman instalment The Dark Knight Rises, it added.

Box office revenues were spread across a number of films in the first-half, with the top 10 highest grossing films accounting for roughly 40% of Cineworld’s total box office, according to Cineworld.

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Comic-book adventure Avengers Assemble, which grossed more than �51 million in the UK, was a stand-out performer and was supported by good showings from Men in Black 3, The Hunger Games and science-fiction thriller Prometheus.

The group said the performance of 3D films has been “stabilising” over the last year with 15 3D film releases during the first half, compared with 17 last year, representing around 15% of Cineworld’s admissions, a little lower than the 17% in 2011.

There have been worrying signs that the 3D boom may already be over after the British Film Institute released a survey showing 3D takings were down despite a doubling in the number of films in this format.

It was hoped that the 3D format would spark a new era for cinema operators, which charge extra for the required glasses and in some cases more for a ticket.

Cineworld said film studios were becoming “increasingly adept” in discerning the genre and target audience of 3D films, but added: “The quality of 3D film product remains absolutely critical.”

Retail revenue, such as refreshments and snacks, was 2.1% lower than the previous year, with the average spend per person dipping to �1.65 during the half-year due to the tough consumer spending climate.

However, Wayne Brown, analyst at Cannacord Genuity, said: “These results are encouraging, as the first half of the year was up against tough comparatives and set against a period containing global sporting events and a weaker film slate when compared to last year.”