Cineworld hoping for boost from The Lion King after weak start to 2019

Cineworld is putting faith in summer blockbuster The Lion King and upcoming movies including the next Star Wars instalment to offset falling admissions and profits in a weak start to 2019.

The group said box office admissions dropped 14% to 136 million in the six months to June 30, with pre-tax profits down 13% at 139.7 million US dollars (£114.8 million).

It blamed the performance on the timing of major movie releases, while it is thought box office takings across the sector have been hit by a lukewarm response to recent sequels Lego Movie 2 and Men in Black: International.

But the firm, which last year bought larger US rival Regal, is hoping a stronger line-up of releases for the second half will keep it on track for the full year, with The Lion King live-action remake already drawing in big audiences since opening in July.

Mooky Greidinger, chief executive of Cineworld, said: “Very strong admissions for The Lion King demonstrated the ongoing popularity of the theatrical business around the globe, while Avengers: Endgame was the highest grossing movie of all time.

“Still to come are It Chapter Two, Joker, Frozen 2, and one of the most anticipated movies in recent years, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”

Box office sales, which make up nearly 60% of total revenues, fell 14.9% to 1.5 billion US dollars (£1.2 billion) on a pro forma basis, including the Regal business, which was bought in March 2018.

Figures showed UK admissions fell 8.2% to 23.5 million, while they were down 18.5% in the US at 89.7 million

It said it came up against a strong prior year for releases, when films including The Greatest Showman, Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther drew in cinema goers worldwide.

Cineworld also said its plans for refurbishments were “progressing well”, having kicked off revamps on six sites in the US and another 60 in the pipeline.

Four refurbs were completed in the UK over the first half, while it also extended its cinema in London’s O2, which is now the biggest cinema in the capital with 19 screens and 4,500 seats.

Ivor Jones, an analyst at Peel Hunt, said: “We believe that film releases for the balance of the year are notably more promising than in the first half and we expect industry box office revenue for full-year 2019 to be flat to slightly up.

“Also, Cineworld will increasingly be able to prove it is getting a payback on its investments.”

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