TORONTO — Cineplex Inc. moviegoers could soon order their popcorn from their mobile phones before heading to theatres, as the company focuses on concession stand sales, restaurants and bars to continue to drive growth.
“We are testing it and we are looking at it, especially in the VIP cinemas, where you can basically walk in and have everything ready to go,” president and CEO Ellis Jacob said Thursday.
He talked about the potential of such an option after Cineplex reported a fourth-quarter profit of $28.8 million, up from $23.3 million a year earlier, that was boosted by concession stand sales.
In the last quarter, Cineplex’s concession revenue per patron grew 9.4 per cent to a record $6.29 compared with $5.75 a year earlier.
Moviegoers are opting for premium, VIP tickets that offer in-seat ordering and roomier, reclining chairs are opting to spend more, Jacob said.
Customers are also heading to the theatre early to stock up on snacks and take advantage of the company’s in-seat, pre-screening game Time Play that pits moviegoers against each other in an interactive, trivia game where they can win prizes, he said.
Concession stand offerings have become so expansive that “you can pretty much have your dinner there,” Jacob said. But “we keep pushing harder and looking at different choices for things we can sell at the concession stand,” he added.
In 2017, the company increased the size of some of its portions and began selling alcohol in Ontario and Alberta.
“But at the end of the day, the concession revenue at the theatre is driven by the number of people who come through,” Jacob said.
The debut of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and “Thor: Ragnorak,” “Justice League,” “Blade Runner 2049” and “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” helped bring people to the theatres in the last quarter.
During that time period, box office revenue per patron increased to $10.54 compared with $10.23, though attendance during the quarter slipped 2.1 per cent to 17.6 million people compared with 17.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2016.
Cineplex and other theatre owners hunt for ways to boost profits at a time when a night at the movies competes with a raft of other convenient entertainment alternatives, like Netflix.
Looking ahead, Jacob said he was feeling “encouraged by the film schedule this year, especially in the second and third quarters,” when “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Deadpool 2,” “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” “The Incredibles 2,” and “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” will debut.
“Black Panther” is already proving to be quite successful, scoring $242 million in North American box office revenue in four days to become the highest grossing February film in box office history and Cineplex’s highest grossing first-quarter film ever.
Away from the screen, Jacob indicated that Cineplex will keep concentrating on some of its other entertainment offerings, including the Rec Rooms, restaurants and bars outfitted with arcades and other interactive games.
He said 10 to 15 more Rec Room locations will open over the next few years and the concept will pop up in London and Mississauga, Ontario in the next 12 months.
Construction on its first Playdium complex — targeting teens and families, instead of millennial as the Rec Room aims to entice — will begin in Whitby in 2018.
Cineplex’s recent partnership with sports entertainment company Topgolf will also see dining complexes centred around digital golf games using micro-chipped balls make their way to the Canadian market after success in the U.S.
Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press