Exhib UA losses triple

Hit reflects post-'Titanic' slump

NEW YORK — United Artists Theater Group’s loss more than trebled to $25.8 million in the first quarter on 18% lower revenue of $134.9 million, UA said Friday, reflecting the impact of the post-“Titanic” attendance slump.

UA’s operating income, before interest and taxes, swung to a loss of $10.6 million from a profit of $12.2 million a year earlier.

The entire exhib industry was hurt by the slump in the quarter, though most exhibs are hoping this week’s opening of “Phantom Menace” will turn business around.

In a statement Friday, United Artists CEO Kurt Hall said that while the company reduced certain variable payroll and concession costs, “the significant variations in the timing of film release schedules and/or the success of individual films such as ‘Titanic’ last year had a significant impact on our comparative quarterly operating results.”

Hall said UA had completed renovation of three theaters with 36 screens in the first quarter and had started construction on four new complexes, with a total of 53 screens, in New York, Philadelphia and Dallas.

“These new and upgraded facilities … have positioned us very well for the scheduled release of the ‘Star Wars’ prequel and several other highly anticipated films,” Hall said.

UA operates 2,148 screens in 316 theaters.