Wanda Film, China’s largest cinema operator, has forecast a return to heavy losses for the first half of 2022.
In a regulatory filing, the company warned of net losses (including non-recurring items) reaching between RMB 580 million – RMB 660 million ($85 million – $97.8 million) for the six months to June. That compares with a net profit of RMB613 million $90.8 million in the equivalent period last year.
The company pointed to the impact of COVID-control measures in China, which it said caused the temporary closure of 415 of its multiplexes and led film distributors to reduce the supply of new movies to cinemas. “Box office in April and May hit multi-year lows,” Wanda reported. Depressed revenues and rising rental and staff costs were largely responsible for the massive swing in the company’s results. Its own film titles, such as “Detective Chinatown” were also delayed and underperformed.
The company forecast better times ahead, noting that more than 80% of its cinemas nationwide had reopened by the end of the first half and that cinemas in Shanghai were operating from July 8. Film distribution is also picking up.
Independent sources also corroborate the signs of recovery at the Chinese box office. Consultancy, Artisan Gateway reported that the latest weekend was the sixth in succession where nationwide grosses exceeded $50 million, more than double the average between March and May. The year-to-date total stands at $2.82 million and, according to Artisan Gateway’s calculations, is running at 35% below the same date last year.
Wanda Cinemas’ share of the Chinese theatrical market grew from 15% to 16.5%, it estimated in the filing. Local media reports have recently quoted Wanda Film executives as pointing to further cinema building plans that would shore up the company’s market leading position. Recent weeks have seen other concentration moves with the announcement that Hengdian is planning to acquire Xingyi cinemas for RMB3 billion ($445 million).
Wanda also owns Australian cinema chain Hoyts, which it said recovered by 43% year-on-year, more than expected. It reported that its Australian cinemas welcomed 8 million spectators in the half and enjoyed gross box office revenues of A$123 million ($84.1 million).
Wanda Film’s Shenzhen-traded shares are currently at RMB12.06, down 23% on the year. That price implies a market capitalization of RMB27 billion ($4.07 billion).