Cineworld eyes boost from 4D


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The Independent Online

The UK's largest cinema operator today warned Euro 2012 and the London Olympics would present challenges this year, but said a strong line up of sequels and new "4D" seats should offer support to the business.

Cineworld, which has 79 cinemas and 811 screens, said it would trial D-box seats, which shake and move according to the action in the film, at its Glasgow venue.

The group, which has a 24.6% market share in the UK and Ireland, has experimented with new formats including super-size Imax screens and an upmarket cinema concept called The Screening Rooms, recently tested in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

Looking ahead, Cineworld hopes blockbusters such as Batman instalment The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spiderman and Lord of the Rings prequel The Hobbit, will pull in enough customers to offset the loss of trade to this summer's major sporting events.

Cineworld reported a 10% rise in pre-tax profits in the year to December 29 to £33.4 million, but revenues only edged up 1.5% to £348 million in the period.

Anthony Bloom, Cineworld chairman, said: "We have made a sound start to the new financial year and while the forthcoming European football championship and London Olympics present further challenges, there is a strong line up of films to support the rest of the year."

The group said it remained "committed" to expansion in 2012 after opening a new seven-screen cinema in Leigh, in Greater Manchester, while the conversion of all its screens to digital formats is expected to complete this summer.

The company's primary income comes from the box office, which saw a 2.7% rise in sales to £242.1 million, while the average ticket price increased marginally by 0.4% to £5.01.

Box office sales growth was offset by a fall in the net retail spend per person to £1.69 from £1.73, as cash-strapped consumers thought twice about buying sweets, popcorn and drinks to accompany the movie.

Cineworld has started work on a new seven-screen site in Aldershot, Hampshire, which should open in the fourth quarter of the year, while 10 additional development sites have been signed.

The group is also looking for new sites to expand its Screening Rooms concept, which offers larger, more comfortable seats and an exclusive bar.

Shares in Cineworld were ahead by nearly 1% after today's results.