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Apr 19, 2022

Cineplex shares jump as entire theatre network fully reopens

It’s the day executives at Cineplex have been waiting for

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It’s the day executives at Cineplex Inc. have been waiting for.

For the first time since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, the company said, as of Monday, all of its 172 movie theatres and entertainment venues nationwide were reopened and operating at full capacity.

Cineplex shares closed 7.28 per cent higher at $13.55 per share on Tuesday and the company was one of the top performers on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

“In the past two years, we have seen that when operating restrictions are lifted, our guests and customers quickly return across all of our business lines,” said Ellis Jacob, president and chief executive officer at Cineplex, in a press release.

“With significant mandates in place in January 2022, we only achieved 22 per cent of box office revenues when compared to the same month in 2019. As restrictions relaxed, however, we saw the same metric increase to 60 per cent in February 2022 and 70 per cent in March 2022.”

It’s been a long road back to full operating capacity for Cineplex. After having its venues completely shut down in the initial months of the pandemic, the company has navigated through a myriad of government-mandated restrictions including reduced capacity limits, bans on serving snacks and drinks, and re-imposed shutdowns.

The theatre chain was also dealt a series of blows on the blockbuster front as numerous studios delayed releases of major films while other blockbuster movie titles skipped their theatre debut to go straight to streaming services during the height of the pandemic.

In addition to the restrictions, Cineplex faced a legal battle with U.K.-based theatre chain Cineworld Plc, which announced it planned to buy Cineplex in late 2019, only to walk away from that proposal in June 2020. Cineplex was ultimately awarded $1.24 billion in damages by an Ontario court amid a dispute over how the deal fell apart. Cineworld is currently appealing the decision.

Jacob said Cineplex’s box office revenue this past weekend exceeded 2019 levels with the release of Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. He also said the upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness generated the fourth-highest total for pre-sale tickets ever.

In its latest financial release in February, Cineplex reported a $21.8-million net loss in its fourth quarter, which covered the three months leading up to Dec. 21, 2021, a big improvement from the $230.4 million loss it reported during the same timeframe in the prior year.