Cineworld thrives on the urge to escape uncertainty

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The Independent Online

Inflation IS soaring, house prices stagnating and sterling losing out against the rising dollar – but at least the Great British Public is still going to the cinema.

Bucking the trend for gloomy results, Cineworld, the second-largest UK chain, reported revenue and profit rises in the first six months of 2008, on the back of a 1 per cent rise in box office receipts to £89.6m.

Mamma Mia! and Batman: The Dark Knight are doing a roaring trade, the company says, and the summer blockbusters Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Sex and the City brought in £40m and £26m respectively.

"The enduring appeal of film continues to be even more pronounced in times of economic uncertainty," Stephen Wiener, the Cineworld chief executive, said. "We feel confident that the strong line-up of films in the second half will drive admissions, particularly in the fourth quarter, when James Bond: Quantum of Solace, Madagascar 2 and High School Musical 3 hit our screens."

Revenue for the first half was up 0.9 per cent to £137m and operating profit was up 19.5 per cent to £14.1m. Average ticket price per admission rose to £4.34 from £4.09. Despite rising costs for extras like confectionery, ice-cream and popcorn, average retail spend was also up, from £1.64 to £1.73, thanks to a change of coffee and alcohol suppliers, more Ben & Jerry's kiosks and upgraded sales areas. Cineworld has 74 cinemas, with 770 screens. It is planning a five-screen facility in Haverhill, Suffolk, in the fourth quarter, and another seven branches nationwide over the coming three years. A joint venture with Odeon, Digital Cinema Media, recently acquired Carlton Screen Advertising to become market leader in cinema advert-ising.

The stock closed up 4.75p at 111p.