Cineworld needing a blockbuster release to boost audience numbers

Cineworld has warned audience numbers are weaker than expected, blaming a lack of blockbuster films.

It has predicted numbers will stay low until November due to “limited” film releases.

The world’s second largest cinema business said it is now assessing options to shore up its finances as a result.

The group, which also owns the Picturehouse chain, had pinned its hopes on releases such as Top Gun: Maverick, The Batman and Thor: Love And Thunder to aid its recovery from the heavy impact of the pandemic.

But it currently lacks a blockbuster to bring people in for late summer and early autumn. Offerings at its cinemas in Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury currently include the likes of Minions: The Rise of Gru, Bullet Train and Elvis, as well as the long-running Top Gun sequel.

In a statement the firm said: “Despite a gradual recovery of demand since reopening in April 2021, recent admission levels have been below expectations.

“These lower levels of admissions are due to a limited film slate that is anticipated to continue until November 2022 and are expected to negatively impact trading and the group’s liquidity position in the near term.”

Cineworld said it will continue with cost-saving plans but will also look at new options to improve its financial position.

The business, which was saddled with £4bn of debt at the end of the last financial year, said it is in talks with stakeholders over potential funding or considering restructuring its balance sheet.

Liberum analyst James Wheatcroft said its heavy debt burden means a balance sheet restructuring will “likely leave little for existing Cineworld shareholders”.

Cineworld said: “Business operations are expected to remain unaffected by these efforts and Cineworld expects to continue to meet its ongoing business counterparty obligations. Cineworld continues to welcome guests to its cinemas across its global markets as normal, without disruption.”

It comes after the business posted a loss of £429 million in 2021 as revenues were boosted by higher admissions.

Sentiment around the company has also been dented over the past year by a pair of separate legal spats.

In September, the London-listed business struck an agreement to pay 170 million US dollars to disgruntled Regal shareholders who were frustrated with the price it purchased the US cinema chain for following a dispute, although it has subsequently sought to delay some payments.

Meanwhile, in December it was ordered to pay £720 million by a court after it decided not to go through with a takeover of Canadian rival Cineplex as the pandemic broke out.

Chief executive Mooky Greidinger appealed against the court ruling and claimed the company acted in “good faith”.

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