Cinema chains Cineworld and Odeon are toasting the popularity of Peter Rabbit 2 after the new film boosted audiences as screens reopened.
Cineworld said it had enjoyed a better than expected first weekend since rules were eased while Odeon said it enjoyed its busiest week in more than a year.
It said its attendance over the weekend was more than double that at any time during last year’s July-November reopening period.
Cinemas, together with indoor hospitality venues, reopened following lockdown a week ago, subject to social distancing and face mask rules.
Operators have been closed for much of the past year putting them under huge financial strain and leaving thousands of workers furloughed or facing uncertain futures.
Cineworld said it had “enjoyed a strong opening weekend in the UK, led by the success of Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway” though it did not release any comparative sales numbers.
“This weekend’s performance went beyond our expectations as customers were eager to return to the movies and enjoy the full movie experience, including the traditional popcorn which led to strong concession income,” the group said.
Cineworld also said 97% of its cinemas in the US were open again while elsewhere in the world, its screens in Poland and Israel were due to reopen at the end of the coming week, and most will be open by the end of the month.
Shares rose 3% on the update.
Chief executive Mooky Greidinger said: “We are thrilled to have our cinemas back in business in the US and UK and to welcome movie fans back to the big screen for an exciting and full slate of films.
“We are especially pleased with the warm welcome our employees have received, and the positive feedback from returning guests.
“With the releases next week of Cruella, and A Quiet Place 2, we expect next weekend’s results to be strong.
“When combined with improving consumer confidence and the success of the vaccination rollout, we expect a good recovery in attendance over the coming months.”
Cineworld’s behaviour towards its thousands of temporarily laid off staff during the pandemic has been criticised, with an employees’ campaign group accusing the company of treating them “with contempt” by failing to engage with them
It has also been subject to a shareholder revolt after it proposed a bonus scheme earlier this year which could hand more than £60m to its top two executives.
In March, the group reported a $3bn (£2.2bn) loss for 2020 reflecting pandemic shutdowns.
Odeon said it had sold more than 300,000 tickets in the week beginning 17 May with around 60% of audiences coming to see Peter Rabbit 2.
Over the period from Monday to Thursday it sold 25,000 portions of popcorn, 9,000 portions of nachos and 3,000 hot dogs.
Carol Welch, Odeon’s UK and Ireland managing director, said: “We have been delighted with the guest response since reopening our doors on Monday”
The latest updates from the cinema chains point to continuing signs of a bounce-back for consumer facing businesses as the economy reopens.
Last week official figures showed a 9.2% rise in retail sales in April while baker chain Greggs has said its sales have recovered to higher than pre-pandemic levels.
Figures from Barclaycard suggested last week’s indoor hospitality reopening saw spending across the sector rise by 43% compared to the week before and 9% compared with two years ago.