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A Cineplex movie theatre sign looms over Yonge street in Toronto, on March 16, 2020.CHRIS HELGREN/Reuters

Even as inflation hits the prices of everything from groceries to gas, the cost of a movie ticket is staying put – at least for now.

“I think our guests would be more than happy for a nominal price increase, but I’m not rushing to do that,” Cineplex Inc. CGX-T chief executive officer Ellis Jacob said in an interview on Friday. “I want to make sure that we get our guests back … We look to keep the movie experience affordable.”

As audiences have begun to come back to cinemas, Canada’s largest movie-theatre operator is still effectively making more on each ticket. The Toronto-based company reported on Friday that it has seen box office revenues per visitor rise to a first-quarter record of $12, compared with $9.20 at the same time a year ago.

That’s because audiences who became accustomed to watching new releases at home during the pandemic are looking for experiences worth leaving the house for. In presales, tickets for Cineplex’s VIP and UltraAVX auditoriums, which command higher prices than the chain’s regular screens, are the first to sell, Mr. Jacob said. He added that premium options will continue to expand.

Another hope for convincing returning audiences to fork over more cash is the return of 3D films. James Cameron’s Avatar, which helped motivate theatre owners to invest in 3D screens in 2009, is coming back with a sequel later this year. Other 3D releases this year will include Jurassic World Dominion, Thor: Love and Thunder, Lightyear, Minions: the Rise of Gru – and Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which opened last weekend.

Mr. Jacob said there were fewer 3D releases earlier in the pandemic. “That was largely driven by contagiousness, and the glasses, and all of that,” Mr. Jacob said. “I think it will start to come back.”

On Friday, Cineplex reported that it had narrowed its first-quarter loss to $42.2-million, or 67 cents a share, compared with a loss of $89.7-million, or $1.42 a share, in the prior year.

Mr. Jacob said he is optimistic for the summer. In mid-April, for the first time since the start of the pandemic, the company reopened all 172 of its theatres across Canada without restrictions. He expects customers to continue to return to the movies.

“There are still holes we need to fill, and the studios will start to fill them as we go forward. It’s all driven by product,” he said.

In the three months ended March 31, Cineplex reported that 6.7 million people had visited its theatres, compared with just 415,000 in the same period last year, when the industry was deeply affected by pandemic-related shutdowns. This year’s period also included some theatre closings during the Omicron wave of COVID-19.

Cineplex’s revenue grew significantly, to $228.7-million in the first three months of the year, up from $41.4-million in the same period in 2021.

Concession revenue per patron was an all-time quarterly record at $8.82, up from $6.12 in the same quarter last year.

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