James Bond and Spider-Man spark audience recovery at Cineworld
THE owner of the new cinema at Belfast’s Odyssey complex has said a "strong" slate of films at the end of 2021 helped audience numbers to rebound sharply.
Cineworld, which is the world's second largest cinema chain, opened its first Northern Ireland outlet on December 10 2021.
It said while the likes of James Bond film No Time To Die and Spider-Man: No Way Home boosted its numbers toward the end of last year, it said the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 and a lack of major releases impacted its trade over January and February.
It added that it expects strong trading to kickstart this month due to a strong and full slate of films, including The Batman.
Mooky Greidinger, chief executive of Cineworld, said the group is now "well positioned to execute its strategy and capitalise on the highly anticipated movie schedule" over the rest of the year.
He highlighted a raft of blockbusters set for release later in 2022, including Avatar 2, Top Gun Maverick, Jurassic World: Dominion, Minions: The Rise of Gru, Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, Thor: Love and Thunder, and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
The company revealed on Thursday that admissions grew by 75.2 per cent to 95.3 million in 2021 as it benefited from the loosening of pandemic restrictions.
It added that total revenues leapt to $1.8 billion (£1.37bn) for the year, compared with $852m (£646m) in 2020.
As a result, it also cut its annual losses to $565.8m (£429m), compared with its mammoth $2.6bn loss from the previous year.
Mr Greidinger added: "Whilst our 2021 results still reflect the impacts of Covid-19, particularly at the start of the financial year, we are encouraged by the recent strong trading performance throughout the final quarter.
"It is clear that our customers remain loyal and have missed the big screen experience as well as the sociability of watching a movie with others.
"Our strong final-quarter performance reflects the pent-up demand for affordable out-of-home entertainment and the record-breaking film slate, including Spider-Man: No Way Home, which showcased the importance of cinematic releases."
Shares in Cineworld have plunged by around two thirds over the past year as recovery optimism was dented by two legal spats.
In September, the London-listed business struck an agreement to pay $170m to disgruntled Regal shareholders who were frustrated with the price it purchased the US cinema chain for following a dispute.
Separately, in December, Cineworld shares dropped by 30 per cent after it was ordered to pay 1.23 billion Canadian dollars (£720m) by a court after it decided not to go through with a takeover of Canadian rival Cineplex as the pandemic broke out.