'Popcorn index' helps Cineworld profits jump


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The Independent Online

Les Misérables and Iron Man 3 helped Cineworld post a 24.1 per cent jump in pre-tax profits to £16.5m in the six months to June.

The cinema chain enjoyed a 10.5 per cent surge in box-office sales, to £131m, partly because it hiked ticket prices by almost 5 per cent. But there were also signs consumers are feeling more relaxed about their finances, with a strong rise in the "popcorn index" of discretionary spending: retail revenue rose 9.7 per cent.

"Retail sales were slack for a few years due to the economic environment," the chief executive, Steve Wiener, conceded. But he said rolling out Starbucks coffee concessions at Cineworld multiplexes – there will be 11 by the year end – had pushed up retail sales to £41.7m.

A tougher fourth quarter could be ahead since last year's James Bond blockbuster Skyfall was the highest-grossing film ever in the UK, bringing in £103m for Cineworld. But Mr Wiener said: "I wouldn't say I'm worried – being up against a £100m movie keeps you focused. If we can achieve that £100m with a collection of films instead of one, the end result will be better."

He expects the next instalments of The Hobbit and The Hunger Games will fill cinemas in the second half. Cineworld shares, which are up nearly 50 per cent this year, slipped 3.5p to 391p.