Hollywood's slow summer eats into Cineplex profit

Several box-office flops and a slow summer for Hollywood blockbusters helped push Cineplex Inc. profits down by 19 per cent in the second quarter ended June 30.

Canadian cinema chain says World Cup scooped up viewers in 2nd quarter

Rio 2 pulled in families but Maleficent was too scarey. Cineplex CEO Ellis Jacob says there were too few family movies in the 2nd quarter. (CBC)

Several box-office flops and a slow summer for Hollywood blockbusters helped push Cineplex Inc. profits down by 19 per cent in the second quarter ended June 30.

"One or two titles can really change things," chief executive Ellis Jacob said Wednesday, after the company reported profits for the quarter of $23.2 million, or 37 cents per share, down from $28.5 million or 45 cents per share a year ago.

The quarter was crowded with major studio titles like The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Godzilla, but none of them attracted the kinds of crowds that packed theatres beyond the opening weekend, Jacob said. And there were some major duds such as Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow.

Hollywood is having its worst summer in eight years, despite putting out the usual wave of action films and sequels.

"The market may have been crowded, but it wasn't crowded with the movies that were spread across the right demographics,"  Jacob said.

Cineplex same-theatre attendance down 5%

Cineplex estimates that same-theatre attendance dropped by five per cent in the quarter, though the acquisition of Empire theatres boosted attendance figures to 19.3 million tickets.

One of the problems may have been the World Cup, which drew viewers away from the cinema and encouraged some studios to delay the release of their films.

Cineplex revenues grew 7.2 per cent to $323.5 million mainly because of the acquisition of Empire and digital media company EK3 Technologies Inc., which has been renamed Cineplex Digital Networks.

Box-office revenues inched up 0.4 per cent to $9.40 per patron on the back of premium ticket prices that included Imax titles, 3-D movies and Cineplex's VIP theatres.

2013 was magic for Hollywood

Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst at Rentrak, said 2014 box office looks paltry compared to 2013, which included six movies that made over $200 million.

"It really just comes down to the product, the slate of films. 2013 had this magical slate – Iron Man 3, Despicable Me 2, Star Trek: Into Darkness, Monsters University – a lot of big films," he said in an interview with CBC's The Lang & O'Leary Exchange.

This year, family film Frozen was a big hit for Disney, both in the cinema and at the box office, with Disney reporting net income that rose 22 per cent in the third quarter, largely on the strength of Frozen and Guardians of the Galaxy. 

But some of the less likely successes of the summer prove that Hollywood is missing out on an important demographic by concentrating on blockbusters, Dergarabedian​ said.

"Hollywood has chased the 18 to 24-year-old male for years and this summer some of the brightest spots out there were female-driven movies like Maleficent, The Fault in our Stars, Tammy, Lucy – all those films did well at the box office," he said.

The Fault in Our Stars, an indie movie which cost $12 million to make, brought in $124 million, more than Edge of Tomorrow, he said.

“We have to look at the female audience as being very important. The Fault in Our Stars is a movie that did very well worldwide with young female audiences, an audience Hollywood doesn’t typically chase in the summer.