Cineworld rues weaker box office and food sales ahead of year end

3 December 2019, 09:56 | Updated: 3 December 2019, 18:24

Cineworld has warned trading for the year may be "slightly below management's expectations" following weaker-than-expected box office and food sales.

The UK-based firm, which owns Regal in the US as well as the Picturehouse brand, reported an 11% dip in US movie receipts in the 11 months to 1 December compared with the same period in 2018.

UK box office revenues were almost 10% lower while sales of extra services, including popcorn and drinks, were more than 8% down in both territories as consumers, on both sides of the pond, kept non-essential spending in check.

The company, which, like rivals is battling stiff competition from streaming services, said that delays to some key movies until next year had not helped but it was banking on the latest instalment of the Star Wars saga to help finish 2019 on a positive note.

Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker and Jumanji: The Next Level are both due to be released later this month.

Cineworld said better than expected cost savings, of £147m, from its 2018 takeover of Regal would partly offset the weaker than expected trading though it reported a pick-up in box office receipts in recent weeks ahead of Christmas.

It told investors: "The impact of the major releases in December is expected to continue the recent positive box office trend.

"However, given the weaker full-year box office, partially offset by strong execution of synergies and revenue initiatives, management expects trading for the full year to be slightly below management's expectations."

Chief executive Mooky Greidinger said: "There is an impressive selection of movies to come, which, coupled with our extensive premium technology-led offering and exciting food and beverage offerings, will contribute strongly to our operating results and underpin our mission to be the best place to watch a movie."

Shares, down 16% in the year to date, had fallen by 3.8% at the close of trading.

A weakening of the dollar versus sterling tends to hurt the market values of firms which rake in dollar earnings, such as Cineworld, as the cash is worth less when booked in pounds.