Hot movies like “Avatar,” “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” and “The Blind Side” helped paint an improving picture of Carmike Cinemas’ profits in the fourth quarter of 2009, while also giving earnings enough of a boost to limit the company’s financial damage for the full year.
“Q4 was a record-setting quarter for the industry domestically, with nine films grossing in excess of $100 million, capping off a very good year for U.S. cinema as movies generated receipts in excess of $10 billion for the first time in history,” David Passman, Carmike’s president and chief executive officer, said Monday in reporting the Columbus-based movie-theater chain’s earnings.
The company, which operates 244 theaters (2,277 screens) in 35 states, posted a quarterly profit of $6 million on total revenue of $137.4 million. That compares to a $34.6 million loss on $117 million in revenue during the same October-December period a year ago.
Overall in 2009, the motion-picture exhibitor reported a $15.4 million loss on total revenue of $514.7 million, compared to a $41.3 million loss on $427.7 million in revenue the prior year.
For shareholders, the fourth-quarter performance translates to earnings of 48 cents per share, compared to a $2.73-per-share loss in the same period a year ago. For all of 2009, earnings fell $1.19, compared to a $3.24-per-share plunge the year before.
Carmike handily beat the expectations of a half-dozen Wall Street analysts surveyed by financial research firm Thomson Reuters. They were anticipating a profit of 9 cents per share for the quarter and a loss of $1.64 per share for the year.
Passman pointed to a 12-percent increase in attendance and a 20-percent jump in box office receipts as two key drivers behind the strong fourth quarter. The company also continued to keep expenses in check, he said. All of that combined to boost cash flow 25 percent and give the firm nearly $27 million in “earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization,” he said.
Movie fans, meanwhile, continued to shell out more overall at Carmike theaters lasts year.
Average admission prices per patron rose primarily because of ticket price increases throughout the year and the fees the chain charges 3-D movie-goers for special glasses used to view the technology, said Richard Hare, Carmike’s chief financial officer.
Concessions, meanwhile, were essentially flat, he said, with the company’s “Stimulus Tuesday” promotion of $1 drinks and popcorn and $2.50 candy eating into revenue from refreshment sales.
“This popular promotion has driven solid attendance gains on what was historically the slowest night of the week,” Hare said.
Each patron spent an average of $10.15 each visit in the record-setting fourth quarter, the company said. Average ticket price in the quarter was $6.91, up from $6.45 a year ago.
Looking ahead, Passman said the company has its work cut out for it financially as this year plays out.
“We recognize that 2010 will be challenging as we face record comparisons,” he said. “But we believe our ability to offer 3-D movies on more than 500 screens remains an advantage. And we are optimistic about our 2010 prospects given an upcoming slate that includes many promising 3-D titles, as well as highly anticipated traditional movies.”
Carmike also noted it recently finalized two lower-interest credit lines — one for $265 million and another for $30 million — that it can tap if needed. Hare said the move should give the firm more “financial flexibility” and that it was comfortably in compliance with its debt ratios as of Dec. 31.
Shares of Carmike Cinemas Inc. (Ticker: CKEC) rose 40 cents, or 4.4 percent, to $9.50 in trading Monday on the Nasdaq exchange. The stock’s 52-week trading range is $1 to $11.54 per share.