Canadian stars of 'Shang-Chi,' 'Free Guy' draw moviegoers as Cineplex reports loss

·3 min read

TORONTO — Hollywood hits starring homegrown actors Simu Liu and Ryan Reynolds had Canadian moviegoers rushing back to cinemas in the final weeks of summer, giving Cineplex Inc. a much-needed boost in ticket sales.

The country's largest film exhibitor says Liu's Marvel epic "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" was the biggest draw in the latest quarter, helped by the "Kim's Convenience" actor's mass appeal.

"He's a local star and that really encouraged Canadians ... to come out to watch the movie," said Cineplex CEO Ellis Jacob as his company reported another quarterly loss.

Cineplex has spent much of the year focused on returning its theatres to full operation as COVID-19 precautions ease and more franchise titles begin opening on the big screen.

"Shang-Chi" didn't just draw big audiences, Jacob said, it outperformed in Canadian theatres by market share compared to the United States. Reynolds' avatar comedy "Free Guy" tied with Marvel's "Black Widow" for the second biggest title by the percentage of the box office.

Overall attendance spiked by 430 per cent to 8.3 million versus a tepid 1.6 million a year earlier.

Other factors contributed to the return of audiences, including eased COVID measures in some provinces.The company says it reopened its entire circuit of theatres byJuly 17.

However, the turnout couldn't keep Cineplex from reporting a loss of $33.6 million in the three months that ended Sept. 30. The company says that amounted to a loss of 53 cents per diluted share, an improvement over a loss of $121.2 million or $1.91 per diluted share a year ago.

Overall revenue totalled $250.4 million, up from $61 million in the comparable period, as ticket holders dished out more money for a premium movie-going experience.

Box-office revenues per person jumped 22 per cent to $11.4 million, fuelled partly by people buying higher-priced tickets for giant Imax screens, UltraAVX large-format showings and VIP cinemas.

Concession revenues reached an all-time high — rising more than 16 per cent to $8.58 per person — due to "modest price increases" and a slate of films that drew visitors more likely to visit food stands.

The spending spike suggests how the domestic box office might fare after months of upheaval in Hollywood.

Numerous major film titles have leapt with unprecedented speed from movie theatres to premium video-on-demand rental at home, raising questions about whether moviegoers will still show up for a big-screen release.

Jacob said he isn't worried much about seeing more films take the PVOD route within weeks of their theatrical release. One of the latest to do so was James Bond adventure "No Time to Die," which arrived in theatres Oct. 8 and was made available to rent at home this week.

"Do you want to see it on a small screen or do you want to go to the big experience?" he asked.

"I think there's really a new appreciation of movie-going.... I'm quite optimistic about the future, as long as we don't end up with issues as it relates to the pandemic."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 11, 2021.

Companies in this story: (TSX:CGX)

David Friend, The Canadian Press

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