Cineworld's prospects boosted by 3D demand
Cineworld today said growing momentum behind 3D movies would help it ride out "challenging" conditions in 2010 as the group posted record results.
The UK's second biggest cinema chain was helped by the huge success of James Cameron's fantasy Avatar - the highest grossing movie of all time - amid 13 releases in the format last year.
The group has a 35pc share of the 3D market and expects 18 films to be released in the format this year - including Alice in Wonderland, starring Johnny Depp.
Cineworld said its early investment in the technology had paid off as the group lifted pre-tax profits 12pc to £30.8m.
Chairman Anthony Bloom said: "Current 3D technology, which has advanced immeasurably since the much derided technology of past, was quickly accepted by cinema goers and, I believe, has ushered in a new era for the cinema industry."
Cineworld, which has 77 cinemas and a total of 790 screens, grew box office takings 17pc to £230.9m last year, helped by more admissions and higher pricing.
The firm benefited from the premium prices charged for 3D films - £5.90 on average - compared with £4.54 for conventional movies. Average admission prices overall moved up to £4.71 from £4.38.
Revenues from screen advertising however fell by 39pc last year as recession dented the business. The group opened new sites in Witney and Aberdeen last year, but plans for new cinemas remain "less certain" this year until finance for developers becomes more available.
Trading has started well so far this year with some carry-over of the "Avatar" effect boosting admissions, Cineworld added.
Altium analyst Greg Feehely said: "The strong end to 2009 has continued into 2010 and this is not just down to the Avatar effect but Alice in Wonderland 3D is on track to be one of the highest grossing movies in 2010.
"The strength of admissions to 3D movies is proving to be more popular than we had initially thought."