Strong Q4 bails out poor performance throughout year

BRUSSELS — International cinema chain Kinepolis can breathe a sigh of relief after announcing on-target ticket sales for 2003, thanks to a last minute boost from “Finding Nemo,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”

Poor performance throughout the year had pundits predicting crisis for the group.

In the third quarter, sales were down by more than 15% from last year. But Thursday’s announcement that annual ticket sales surpassed 24.2 million was a source of renewed optimism.

Investment bank Degroof raised its investment rating on Kinepolis to “hold” from “reduce” on the news, while KBC upgraded its rating to “outperform” from “neutral.”

The heatwave that roasted the continent this summer was blamed for poor turnout earlier this year, the corporation feeling the pinch as punters chose sunscreen over the silver screen and opted to stay outdoors.

Despite beating its target of 23.9 million ticket sales for the year, Kinepolis admissions were down 11.4% compared to last year.

Fresh competition also could be around the corner for Kinepolis, as Belgium’s Studio Filmtheaters has just announced its intention to build a new E3.75 million ($4.8 million) six-screen, 1,300-seat multiplex in Koksijde in northwestern Belgium. Studio Filmtheaters also has cinemas in Teuveren, Leuven, Geel and Diest.

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