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Village Roadshow profits soar 27%

SYDNEY — Australian-based entertainment powerhouse Village Roadshow Ltd. saw after-tax profits surge by 27% to A$26.1 million ($20.3 million) in the six months ending Dec. 31.

The group’s revenue enjoyed a 31% bump to $134.8 million, due chiefly to healthy contributions from its Queensland theme parks and the acquisition of the Daydream Island Resort.

Chairman Robert Kirby noted that VRL’s 50% stake in Warner Bros.’ U.K. and German circuits — the biggest deal in the Aussie company’s history — was finalized Dec. 1, and the U.K. loop’s revenue ran 15% ahead of budget in December and January.

Kirby said Village, together with various partners, will open new multiplexes in India, Singapore, Thailand, Greece, New Zealand, Malaysia and Hong Kong in the next six months. The company’s first cinemas in Greece, Hungary and Argentina have opened and are trading well, he said.

Its 316-screen Australian circuit in the last six months of 1996 was adversely affected by lack of blockbuster product, but results were better than expected in January and February. Mirroring the exhib downturn, the distribution division had a “difficult” six months, but Kirby said the release sked through June is very strong, led by “The English Patient,” “Batman and Robin,” “Paradise Road” and local comedy “The Castle.”

Village has opened two Warner Studio Stores in Australia, which, Kirby said, are operating profitably despite a general retail slowdown. Two more are slated to bow before June.

The leisure division launched two Intencity indoor entertainment centers in Australia and two in Malaysia, and it formed a co-venture with Sega to import and distribute Sega arcade games Down Under.

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