You could be forgiven for thinking Britain’s cinema industry is in terminal decline. A combination of online streaming, uninspiring blockbusters and the rising popularity of TV boxsets might be an indicator that a trip to the flicks will soon be a thing of the past.
It's true that cinema attendance numbers aren’t exactly showing stable growth (see chart below). And major chains like Odeon and Vue aren't performing great - the former's revenues dipped 4% in 2014 and the latter's takings were flat in the first quarter of this year.
But today Cineworld, Britain’s second-largest cinema chain, announced UK revenues in the first four months of its financial year were up 8.8% year-on-year. The success was mainly on the back of hit films like Fast and Furious 7, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Fifty Shades of Grey.
Its performance wasn’t just down to a boost at the box office though. While ticket sales leapt 7.9%, it was the chain’s retail sales (up 8.5%) and other income – which includes advertising, sponsorship and screen hire (up 18.4%) that really helped to push up its revenues. It seems film-goers are still happy to fork out hefty amounts of cash for popcorn and fizzy drinks.
Though its latest annual figures were more placid (total UK revenue up 1.2%), Cineworld shows no signs of being in overall decline. It’s planning to open eight more cinemas this year in the UK alone – and another eight in its international regions. Last year it acquired the trendier chain Picturehouse, which is also performing well despite a bit of an industrial fall-out last year.
Cineworld says its expects 2015 to be strong, and with the latest instalments of Jurassic Park, Star Wars, The Hunger Games and James Bond all on the way, that would be no surprise at all. As for the industry as a whole though, it will need to up its game (and eke out more food and ad sales) if it's going to survive falling customer numbers.