Cineplex revenue down 85% in Q3, but vaccine breakthrough gives hope to exhibition industry

Revenue fell to $61 million in Q3, compared with $418.4 million a year ago, but a backlog of tentpole features and the potential of a vaccine is cause for optimism, said CEO Ellis Jacob.

Cineplex’s revenue fell by 85% to $61 million in Q3, compared with $418.4 million a year ago, as the impact of cinema closures across the country continued to weigh heavily on its financial results.

However, following news of a breakthrough in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, CEO Ellis Jacob expressed hope that the end could be in sight for a global exhibition industry that has been devastated by the pandemic.

Theatre attendance for the three months ending Sept. 30 was 1.6 million, compared with 17.5 million the year prior. As a result, box office revenue was down 91% to $14.5 million, from $177.9 million.

With many of its cinemas remaining closed – or experiencing stop-start openings and closures – since the onset of the pandemic in March, Cineplex said its net cash burn has been approximately $15 million to $20 million per month.

Cineplex has undertaken a number of measures to curtail costs while it navigates the ongoing reality of theatre closures and an absence of tentpole product.

In Q3, Cineplex reduced theatre payroll expenses to approximately $3.9 million, compared to $40.9 million a year ago, in addition to selling “certain restrictive lease rights to landlords” resulting in the receipt of $21 million, and pursuing the sale of its Toronto head office. A potential leaseback transaction is in the works for its Toronto HQ, according to Cineplex, and is expected to close in early 2021.

For the year to date, revenue is down by 70.1% to $365.8 million, from $1.22 billion last year. Over the same time frame, overall theatre attendance has fallen to 12.3 million, from 49.5 million attendees the year prior.

Elsewhere in its quarterly financial results, Cineplex said it had raised $303 million in additional financing, obtained extended relief under its credit facilities and reduced outgoings on lease costs by around $58 million.

Jacob told investors that Cineplex has been encouraged by news of a breakthrough in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. Earlier in the week, news that Pfizer could start rolling out a vaccine in the first half of next year sent Cineplex’s share price up to $7.05 per share, compared with around $5 per share over the month prior.

Jacob said the availability of a COVID vaccine could mean 2021 is a strong year for the exhibition industry, as delayed titles including No Time to DieMission: Impossible 7Top Gun: Maverick and Minions: The Rise of Gru hit the big screen. At press time Cineplex’s share price was $6.54 per share, compared with $23.10 on this day a year ago.

In the background is the lawsuit against Cineworld Group, after the U.K.-based exhibition company’s takeover deal fell apart earlier this year. Cineplex, which is seeking damages in excess of $2.18 billion, said the trial date is still set for September 2021, noting that it isn’t possible to predict the timing or the final outcome of the legal proceedings.