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The Globe and Mail

Five things we’ve learned from a record year at Cineplex

Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) and Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) in The Hunger Games.

Murray Close

Canada's largest movie chain posted the best year in its history, as a strong slate of movies and enhanced theatres drew more viewers to Cineplex Inc.'s screens across the country.

The company saw gains across most of its varied lines of business, from the concession stand to the box office. Here are five things we learned about Canada's theatre business – of which Cineplex holds a market share exceeding 70 per cent.

Record revenue, strong profits

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Cineplex joined the rank of Canadian companies earning more than a billion dollars in revenue in 2012, at $1.09-billion. That's 9 per cent better than its previous best year in 2011, when it earned $998-million. Profit increased by 144 per cent to $120-million from $49-million.

More visits than Canadians

Most of the company's revenue came from the 71.2-million visits to its theatres, the equivalent of two movies for every person living in Canada. The average ticket cost $8.97 through the year, about 2 per cent higher than in 2011, pushing box office revenue to a record $638-million. The average price isn't what most people would have paid through the years – discount nights that see prices drop by 50 per cent are popular among younger movie-goes, and some theatres charge more to cover for upgrades to the theatre's infrastructure. Indeed, 29 per cent of its total box office revenue came from these enhanced theatres, which offer amenities such as reserved seating, enhanced menus and beefed up sound systems.

Super heroes rule

While everyone pretends to love a good art film, Canadians were drawn to the theatre by superheroes in 2012. The Top 5 movies for the chain were Marvel's The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall, The Hunger Games and The Amazing Spider-Man. It was a marked change from 2011, when Canadians seemed to prefer films with colons in their titles – Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn 1, and the Hangover 2.

Beyond popcorn and pop

Concession sales were also markedly higher, thanks in part to the 7-per-cent increase in the number of people approaching the counter when attending a movie. The company has put in a lot of effort ensuring that lineups are cut down to size through more efficient work spaces, and also boosted its menu to get away from staples such as popcorn and pop. It earned $329-million at its concession stands, 13 per cent better than 2011. The average patron spent $4.63, up 5 per cent from 2011. A lot of that was profit – the company said its concession margin per patron averaged $3.68.

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Ad slump

It can't all be good news – the company said it saw a decrease in the amount of money advertisers were willing to spend to show their ads prior to each movie. Ads revenue slipped 7 per cent on the year, primarily due to large national advertisers reducing their budgets in the first half of the year.

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