July 14, 2020 / 1:58 PM / a month ago

Cinemaxx owner expects to be profitable in 2020 despite coronavirus

BERLIN (Reuters) - The owner of German cinema chain Cinemaxx still expects to be profitable this year despite closures due to the coronavirus pandemic and strict social distancing measures, its chief executive told Reuters.

Tim Richards, CEO and founder of Cinemaxx parent company Vue Entertainment [VUENT.UL], said its cinemas were normally only 20% full year-round, which made it easy for cinemagoers to keep to the prescribed distance of 1.5 metres.

“We can do business pretty normal, compared to others. We’re just playing movies a bit longer, and more often per day,” Richards said, adding that to avoid large crowds people were choosing to go to the cinema on a Tuesday, for example, instead of a Friday.

“Yes, we’re down. But we are profitable to break-even still. Some time in 2021, we hopefully will be back where we have been before COVID-19,” he said.

Cinemaxx started re-opening its cinemas in Germany from mid-May and has sold 200,000 tickets since then, said Cinemaxx boss Frank Thomsen.

Despite being open, cinemas are struggling with a lack of new films as Hollywood studios postpone the release of blockbusters until the autumn, such as the latest James Bond Movie “No Time to Die”, which was pushed back to November.

Thomsen said the next big blockbuster would be the thriller “Tenet”, which will be released in Germany on Aug. 12. He also hopes local productions will fill the gap.

Shortly before the pandemic, Cinemaxx was given the green light from the Federal Cartel Office to take over previous market leader Cinestar for 222 million euros ($252 million), pending the sale of six cinemas.

Because of the virus outbreak, Cinemaxx has had to restart the sale process, but hopes to close the deal, ideally to a single buyer, within the next few months, Richards said.

He expects consolidation in the industry, beginning this year or next, but said further acquisitions in Germany would be harder as the market is very fragmented.

(This story corrects to remove extraneous hyphen from headline)

Reporting by Alexander Huebner and Klaus Lauer; Writing by Caroline Copley and Mark Potter

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