Carmike posts loss of $41M

Carmike Cinemas cut its losses by two-thirds in 2008, but the theater chain was still more than $41 million in the red. That’s down from a $126.8 million loss in 2007.

The Columbus-based motion-picture exhibitor also reported Monday that it improved in the fourth quarter of the year, slicing its loss in half from the three-month period a year ago. The loss for the October-December time frame was $34.6 million, down from $68 million the year before.

The firm did say theater-level cash flow grew from $22.6 million to $24.9 million in the quarter, although it dipped from $99.7 million to $91.7 million for the year as a whole.

“We finished 2008 with a solid fourth quarter, highlighted by a 10 percent increase in theater-level cash flow,” David Passman, Carmike’s chairman, said in a statement. “Although the domestic economy continues to be challenged, Carmike and the exhibition industry as a whole have demonstrated our resilience.”

In January, Passman replaced Michael Patrick as the company’s chairman, a move approved by Carmike’s board of directors. Patrick also held the president and chief executive officer titles. The firm has said it is searching for a new top executive.

Another notable moment in 2008 was billionaire Mark Cuban’s purchase of 1.2 million shares of Carmike stock — 9.4 percent of the firm — for $2.8 million in December. The outspoken and controversial owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team also co-owns the Landmark Theaters chain. He hasn’t publicly discussed the stock deal.

In Monday’s financial report, Carmike said it did grow total revenue slightly in the fourth quarter.

It rose from $115.7 million a year ago to $117.4 million this quarter. For the year, however, revenue was off slightly, slipping from $484 million to $474 million.

The company, which has invested heavily in digital and 3-D technology in recent years, also said net debt is down from $399.7 million to $381.4 million.

“Carmike now has the largest installed base of 3-D screens of any domestic exhibitor,” Passman said. “We believe we are well positioned to benefit from a growing pipeline of high-profile 3-D content planned in 2009 and beyond.”

One phenomenon in 2008 was the drop in attendance at Carmike theaters, while its ticket and concession, or refreshment, take from each customer showed an average increase.

“Our per patron revenue rose year-over-year during the fourth quarter due to price increases implemented during the year and 3-D premium pricing,” said Richard Hare, Carmike chief financial officer.

The chain charges extra for 3-D showings — including special glasses — and various digital events such as concerts and sporting events.

Ticket prices averaged $6.32 per patron last year, the firm said, while concessions averaged $3.24 for a total of $9.56 per person. That compares to a total of $8.95 per patron in 2007.

Overall attendance, meanwhile, dropped from 55 million in 2007 to just under 50 million last year. But that decrease also came with Carmike’s theater count falling from 277 in 2007 to 256 last year. The company operates 2,300 screens in 36 states.