By Kristy Dorsey

UK revenues at Cineworld have rebounded beyond pre-pandemic levels as James Bond led the way in luring customers back to the big screen.

Box office and concession revenues in Britain during October were 27 per cent higher than those during the same period in 2019, with Cineworld chief executive Mooky Greidinger “thrilled” with the return of audiences in significant numbers. Across the group, which has 752 sites in 10 countries, October’s revenues hit 90% of pre-pandemic levels.

In addition to the long-delayed September 30 release of No Time To Die, the recovery has been driven by other big-budget releases including Black Widow, Venom, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Dune. The schedule of releases for the festive season – such as the latest instalments of the Spiderman, Matrix and Ghostbusters franchises – is expected to sustain that momentum.

“Our partnerships with the studios are as strong as ever and with the incredible movie slate to come, there are real grounds for optimism in our industry,” Mr Greidinger said.

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“I would especially highlight the great performances we saw from our newly-refurbished cinemas in the US. These new cinemas clearly support our strategy to enhance the cinema experience for all our customers.”

The world’s second-largest cinema group after AMC, Cineworld owns US-based movie theatre chain Regal, the second-largest theatre circuit in the country. The group generates 90% of its revenues from the US, the UK and Israel, where government vaccination programme are well advanced.

With governments in its main markets seemingly keen to avoid further lockdowns, analysts at Jeffries said Cineworld is well-placed to capitalise on people returning to cinemas.

Compared to 2019, revenues in the US rose from 45% in July and August to 54% to 80% in October. In the UK and Ireland, the equivalent figures were 54% in July, 76% in August, 72% in September and 127% in October.

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Cineworld, which posted a pre-tax loss of £2.2 billion for 2020, generated a positive cash flow in October for the first time in 18 months. However difficulties remain, including a debt pile of some £6.29bn accumulated both prior to and during the pandemic.

The London-quoted company’s trading update made no mention of a potential listing of all or part of its business on Wall Street, a possibility it raised in August with the release of its interim results. Such a move would give the heavily indebted company an opportunity to bolster its finances.

“US equity capital markets are the largest and most liquid in the world and include a large number of publicly-listed cinema companies including peer group companies,” Cineworld said at that time. “These companies are typically covered by a significant number of North American equity analysts with a wide domestic investor following.

“The board is therefore considering options to maximise shareholder value now and into the future by accessing liquidity through a listing of Cineworld or a partial listing of Regal in the US. The board will evaluate these options over the coming months and will consult with shareholders in due course if any formal proposals are to be made.”

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Despite being released during the pandemic, Mr Greidinger said No Time To Die had a good chance of becoming the second-biggest Bond film on record after Skyfall. He added there was a high probability that markets outside the UK will reach or surpass pre-pandemic levels in the first half of next year, when titles due for release include The Batman, and Mission: Impossible 7.

“I am really proud of the extraordinary efforts that everybody in the business has made to manage this company during and unprecedented time,” he added. “Whilst there are challenges ahead, I believe these efforts have positioned us for great success in the future and we are all looking forward to continuing to welcome our customers to the best place to watch a movie.”

Shares in Cineworld closed yesterday’s trading more than 6% higher at 67p.