Theater Chain Cinemark Bounces Back With First Profitable Quarter Of The Pandemic

Some good news for the movie business today: one of North America's largest theater chains delivered a solid earnings report. Cinemark, which is third in line behind AMC and Regal in terms of theater chains, has posted its first profitable quarter since the pandemic began, according to its recent earnings report. The report covered the fourth quarter of 2021, and the numbers were good, which is a damn good sign for the industry overall. However, it all comes with a caveat or two.

Per the company's report, Cinemark posted a quarterly profit of $5.7 million. That is downright astounding when considering that they lost just shy of $240 million during the same quarter in 2020. We've come a long way in a couple of years, that much is certain. The company's revenue, overall, increased a whopping 579% to $666.7 million, up from just $98.2 million a year ago. Sean Gamble, Cinemark's President & CEO, had this to say:

"The theatrical exhibition industry, and our company, made huge strides recovering from the ongoing effects of the pandemic throughout 2021, culminating in an exceptional fourth quarter. During the quarter, Cinemark surpassed North American industry box office performance by more than 700 basis points when comparing results against fourth quarter 2019."

There is no question the fourth quarter of 2021 saw desirable output from studios, with gigantic hits such as "No Time to Die," "Venom: Let There Be Carnage," and, most importantly, "Spider-Man: No Way Home" getting moviegoers out en masse. It's amazing what a few big movies can do for the viability of a movie theater chain's business model, isn't it?

Good news, with a caveat

For studios, those who value the theatrical experience, and especially those in the movie theater business, this is a very good sign. The fact that revenue took such a dramatic swing signifies that things are looking up. However, the company did already warn that the first quarter of 2022 will see progress turned back a bit as the omicron surge impacted moviegoing for the early weeks of the year.

The big caveat here is that "Spider-Man: No Way Home" drove the bulk of this business to theaters, with the movie surpassing $1.8 billion globally. No other American movie has even come close to cracking $1 billion during the pandemic. One has to wonder if 2022's theatrical output will be enough to keep the positive trend. Gamble also discussed the notion of exclusive theatrical windows, which were largely in flux last year saying that the "largest films are gravitating towards a 45 day window."

This will be the case when "The Batman" hits theaters next weekend, which is poised to give the box office a massive shot in the arm. The summer has a gigantic, appealing lineup of blockbusters on the way including "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," "Jurassic World Dominion," "Lightyear," and "Top Gun: Maverick," among many others. The hope is that this will help pave the way for a larger recovery that will peak in 2023, getting us as close to a new normal as we're ever likely to get in the exhibition industry. Fingers crossed.