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

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where one employee is still currently isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was first declared on Nov. 19. (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
54 positive COVID-19 cases associated with LNG Canada site outbreak

There’s been a two-person increase in positive cases since Tuesday (Dec. 1)

K-J Millar/The Northern View
8 confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the Northern Health Authority

Since Nov. 27, there have been 191 new cases reported in NHA

A coal-fired power plant seen through dense smog from the window of an electric bullet train south of Beijing, December 2016. China has continued to increase thermal coal production and power generation, adding to greenhouse gas emissions that are already the world’s largest. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
LNG featured at B.C. energy industry, climate change conference

Hydrogen, nuclear, carbon capture needed for Canada’s net-zero goal

Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital took in two COVID-19 patients from Northern Health as part of a provincial agreement. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria hospital takes in two COVID-19 patients from Northern Health

Royal Jubilee Hospital takes patients as part of provincial transport network

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID-19 exposure at The Key, weather shelter announced in Fort St. James

Northern Health made the public service announcement Dec. 1

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

Melissa David, of Parachutes for Pets and her dogs Hudson and Charlie are trying to raise money for a homeless shelter that will allow pets and are seen in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘My only wish:’ Children asking pet charity to help their furry friends at Christmas

Parachutes for Pets says it has received 14 letters from children in the last week

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

Melissa Velden and her chef-husband Chris Velden, stand in their dining room at the Flying Apron Inn and Cookery in Summerville, N.S. on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. The couple is hosting holiday parties with appropriate distancing and other COVID-19 health protocols in place at their restaurant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Celebrities, Santa and Zoom part of office holiday parties being held amid COVID-19

Many will send tokens of appreciation to workers or offer time off or cash

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

Most Read