The Hollywood blockbuster Spider-Man: No Way Home pulled in the cinema crowds in December, driving Cineworld’s box office revenues to almost 90% of pre-pandemic levels despite the rapid spread of Omicron over the festive season.
The world’s second-largest cinema operator, the owner of the Cineworld and Regal Picturehouse chains in the UK and Regal Cinemas in the US, said that across its global business, box office and concession revenue hit 88% of 2019 levels in December. In the UK and Ireland revenues hit 89% of pre-pandemic levels, and 91% in the US.
Cineworld credited the phenomenal success of the latest Spider-Man film, which has taken £80m in the UK despite the reintroduction of face masks in cinemas to curb the spread of Omicron days before its release and has become the only film to make more than $1.5bn (£1.1bn) globally since the pandemic began.
“Spider-Man: No Way Home has shown the importance for studios of cinematic releases,” said Mooky Greidinger, the chief executive of Cineworld. “We are pleased to see continued strong demand among audiences for cinema experiences, supported by a slate of high-quality and high-performing movies.”
The London-listed company said October proved to be the best month of the year, with the release of James Bond: No Time to Die sending revenues in the UK and Ireland to 127% of 2019 levels, pushing its global box office and concession income to 90% of pre-pandemic.
For now, Cineworld said that the pushing back of the release of Tom Cruise’s Top Gun: Maverick to May this year hurt its November income, which was only 56% of pre-pandemic levels.
Nevertheless, the performance across the three-month period was strong enough to make the struggling company cashflow positive. Investors welcomed the news, sending Cineworlds’s shares up almost 4% in early trading, making the company one of the biggest risers on the FTSE 250.
“This demonstrates that fans are continuing to choose the unrivalled theatrical experience,” Greidinger said. “We are continuing to implement guidelines to ensure our cinemas are a safe environment for our customers. While there are challenges ahead, we are excited to welcome customers to our cinemas to enjoy the highly anticipated slate of movies throughout 2022.”
The UK and Ireland box office hit £597m last year, 85% up on 2020, led by No Time to Die, which made £97m, making it the third-highest grossing film of all-time, after the franchise stablemate Skyfall, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
However, the cinema industry has a long road ahead to reach pre-pandemic levels, with annual box office revenues reaching £1.3bn in each of the five years up to 2019. – The Guadian