BOX OFFICE: Malta’s Largest Cinema Complex Reports 80% Drop in Sales in 2020


    VALLETTA: Eden Cinemas, Malta’s largest cinema complex, experienced a drop of 80 percent in sales in 2020, compared to the previous year, according to its Chief Executive Director, Simon De Cesare.

    “This was the darkest year in memory by far. We started off with two bumper months in January and February, which however crashed from March onwards. We reopened in June and have remained open since then, however at a significant cost,” he said.

    On reopening in June, the cinema had to institute extensive COVID-19 mitigation measures, in order to be compliant with the health directorate recommendations. “The mitigation measures, which we wholeheartedly agree with, I might add, have constrained us to 20-25 percent of maximum occupancy in our theatres and the increased cleaning and sanitisation has also been a huge cost,” the CEO said.

    Moreover, Eden Cinemas reopened only 50 percent of their theatres in June, keeping one full block shut, except for two weeks over the Christmas period. “Sales ended up at around 20 percent of 2019. However, with the extra costs, the operating contribution ended up at some 8 percent of 2019,” he said.

    To make the best out of the situation, the company decided to do some maintenance work, retrained all staff and looked to provide “new and interesting content.” However, this proved difficult and “many of our biggest films over Christmas were the likes of the 30-year-old Home Alone.”

    Indeed, the biggest challenge, he continued, has been “the lack of films available to show. Studios are still not releasing their slate and opting to delay further and further or move to streaming platforms. We are now hearing that the Easter big releases, like the Bond film, might be shifted again. This has resulted in a terrible drop in sales and contribution for the year [2020].”

    Looking ahead, Mr De Cesare said that “this is likely to continue for some while. Quarter 1 will be like Quarter 4 of 2020 – dismal; Quarter 2 will improve but will still be making losses and the situation will be dire if the [Government] wage supplement is removed. Hopefully, Quarter 3 should see some light, but I have learned to stop being optimistic and try and be more realistic. We are planning for the worst but hoping for the best.”