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

Stettler Food Bank is well stocked after generous donations during the holiday season. Contributed photo
Slight increase in demand at the Stettler Food Bank over recent weeks

The Stettler Food Bank is located in the basement of Stettler’s United Church

Sign
The Stettler Pheasant Festival reflects on community impact

The festival has seen people visit from all over western Canada and into the United States

Stettler’s Rob Docherty has been named to the Alberta Provincial Trapshooting Association Hall of Fame after over 30 years of competition. 
photo submitted
Rob Docherty is being inducted into the Alberta Provincial Trapshooting Association Hall of Fame

Docherty was also the Stettler Trap Club president for 25 years

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, confirmed eight additional virus-deaths Monday afternoon including one in central zone. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Central zone up to 1,249 active COVID-19 cases

Red Deer sits at 257 active COVID-19 cases

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

A logo for Netflix on a remote control is seen in Portland, Ore.,Aug. 13, 2020. Experts in taxation and media say a plan announced Monday by the government will ultimately add to the cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jenny Kane
‘Netflix tax’ for digital media likely to raise prices for consumers, experts say

The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales

Gaming content was big on YouTube in 2020. (Black Press Media files)
What did Canadians watch on Youtube during isolation? Workouts, bird feeders

Whether it was getting fit or ‘speaking moistly,’ Canadians had time to spare this year

A teacher places the finishing touches on the welcome sign at Hunter’s Glen Junior Public School which is part of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Sept. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Hindsight 2020: How do you preserve a year many Canadians would rather forget?

Figuring out how to preserve the story of the pandemic poses a series of challenges

Team Manitoba celebrate after defeating Team Ontario to win the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Moose Jaw, Sask., Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. Curling Canada wants Calgary’s Canada Olympic Park to be a curling hub for the season’s top events. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calgary facility set to become curling hub during pandemic

Curling Canada has provisional approval for Calgary’s hub-city concept from Alberta Health

Ash and Lisa Van carry a freshly cut Christmas tree while wearing personal protective masks at a Christmas Tree Farm in Egbert, Ontario, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Cole Burston
‘Everyone wants a tree and they want it now’: Christmas tree sales on pace for record

Anticipated demand for Christmas trees has sparked a rush by some to purchase more trees wholesale

A scene from last year’s Light the Night fundraiser at the Stettler Town and Country Museum. This year’s rendition is on a drive-through basis only, but it still promises to be a not-to-be-missed seasonal highlight. (Independent file photo)
Stettler Town and Country Museum hosts ‘Light the Night’

This year’s rendition is drive-through only, but will still prove to be a dazzling display

(Black Press File Photo)
Rimbey woman gathering Christmas gifts for seniors at Valleyview Manor

Margaret Tanasiuk says she doesn’t want anyone to feel forgotten on Christmas morning

Most Read