Bad Economy = Less Raisinets

As Americans strive to save in these harsh economic times, it looks like they may also be tightening their belts at the movie theater concession stand. 

The Hollywood Reporter says that exhibitors Carmike Cinemas and Cinemark Holdings both reported weaker U.S. revenue on Monday as dwindling concession spending added to smaller admissions figures in the third quarter.

The figures were down despite record-breaking results from Warner Bros.’ The Dark Knight.

Both the theater chains made reference to the tough economic environment, which could cut into consumers’ willingness to spend on popcorn and movie tickets even though conventional wisdom holds that movie-going is a recession-proof activity.

Carmike, which operates 250 U.S. theaters, reported a $24,000 profit, down from the $2.1 million recorded in the year-ago period as revenue dropped 7.4% to $122.9 million. Admissions revenue fell 6.9% to $81.1 million, and concession revenue decreased 8.3% to $41.8 million, reports THR.

Cinemark Holdings, meanwhile, reported a third-quarter profit of $20.4 million, reversing a year-ago loss of $23.4 million. Revenue rose 1% to $476.2 million, but only because gains in international markets made up for lower U.S. results, says the Reporter. Cinemark operates 414 theaters in the U.S. and additional ones in 12 foreign countries.

The divide between domestic and international operations in the last quarter was highlighted during Cinemark’s earnings call:

Overall admissions revenue increased 0.2% (+23.9% internationally and -5.5% domestically) driven by a 4.5% gain in average ticket prices (+3.1% in the U.S. and +16.4% abroad). Concession revenue climbed 1.2% (-4.7% in the U.S. but +27.8% internationally). Attendance declined 4% (-8.4% in the U.S. and +7% internationally), executives said.

Still, both exhibitors’ management teams looked ahead fairly optimistically, says THR, as they cited strong fourth-quarter releases and noting that the period’s box office has started ahead of expectations.

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