As television and film writers passed the 100th day of striking and actors neared a month on the picket lines, the chief executive of Canada’s largest cinema chain is hoping “common sense will prevail” and the sides will have reached an agreement by the of the year.
“The impact of it in the short term is not as bad, but if it continues for a number of additional months, my view would be if it went beyond the end of the year, it would be problematic,” Ellis Jacob said in a Thursday interview.
The strikes from the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the Writers Guild of America have so far halted film and television productions along with promotional work for completed movies.
Some studios, including Disney, have since grappled with less star power on red carpets and some movies, including “Challengers,” the Zendaya-starring tennis film once slated to open the Venice Film Festival, have had their releases moved back.
Jacob has seen few studios delay releases so far and said many he deals with “are basically working hard to make sure that the content supply continues.”
For its part, Cineplex CGX-T is focused on ramping up promotions. Without stars giving interviews or showing up to glitzy premieres, the company is digging into its Scene and CineClub data to advertise specific films to people with a pattern of seeing movies in the same genre or sequels to a prior series they viewed.
For example, someone with a history of watching superhero movies might see an e-mail about the release of “Blue Beetle.”
The strikes threaten to upend a streak Cineplex has been on in recent months as a bevy of summer blockbusters hit theatres, boosting attendance levels and concession stand sales.
The biggest movies came on July 21, when “Barbie,” the film starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling about the popular Mattel doll, and “Oppenheimer,” Christopher Nolan’s epic about the creation of the atomic bomb, debuted.
The dual releases dubbed “Barbenheimer” were a “cultural phenomenon,” Jacob said, with patrons selling out screenings, dressing up and arriving early to take photos in a booth resembling a Barbie box.
He saw the films on separate days with his wife and daughters accompanying him to “Barbie” clad in pink “because you can’t go to ‘Barbie’ without doing that.” His family has since caught a second screening.
“If you asked me two years ago, ‘Is it going to do a billion dollars?’ I would have said, ‘Are you dreaming?”’ Jacob said of the film’s box office performance.
“But Warner Brothers did an incredible job marketing the movie. I think the movie is awesome and it’s done really, really well.”
The film, along with Tom Cruise’s “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” and “Oppenheimer” brought Cineplex its highest July box office and its second-highest month on record, trailing December 2015, when “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens” was released.
Some 6.8 million moviegoers visited Cineplex just last month, while 12.8 million attended in the second quarter, which spanned the three months leading up to June 30.
The biggest hit Cineplex had on offer in the second quarter was “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” which set a record for the biggest opening for an animated film ever. Music screenings from BTS member Suga, Machine Gun Kelly and Coldplay, and from Punjabi films “Annhi Dea Mazaak Ae,” “Godday Godday Chaa” and “Jodi” also helped drive audience attendance.
That helped Cineplex’s net income climb to $176.5 million, towering over the $1.3 million it earned a year earlier.
On an adjusted basis, Cineplex said its diluted earnings for the quarter hit $1.99 per share versus two cents per share a year prior, beating analyst expectations of 21 cents per share, according to financial markets firm Refinitiv.
Cineplex’s second quarter revenues rose by 21 per cent to $423.1 million compared with $349.9 million the year before.
However, box office revenues of $164.5 million remained at 79 per cent of 2019 levels, which reached $189.4 million.
The results included expenses related to the failed sale of Cineplex to Cineworld Group PLC. Cineworld walked away from a $2.18-billion deal to buy Cineplex in 2020, sparking a court battle over whether Cineworld had the right to exit the agreement.
An Ontario court ruled in Cineplex’s favour in December 2021, awarding the company $1.24 billion in damages, but Cineworld said it would appeal the judgment, while Cineplex wanted to push for an even higher payout.
Cineworld has since filed a proposed Chapter 11 plan of reorganization and Cineplex has said it does not expect to recover any material amount from its erstwhile suitor.
“We are just as disappointed with the outcome as our shareholders, but I want you to know that we will work tirelessly to explore all options to optimize the value of the litigation judgment,” Jacob said on an earnings call with analysts Thursday.
“We will now put this chapter behind us.”
This content appears as provided to The Globe by the originating wire service. It has not been edited by Globe staff.