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Palace Multiplex in Montego Bay, Jamaica, is one of the cinemas operating under the management of Palace Amusement. (File photo)

Jamaica’s Palace Amusement banks on new summer movies

Palace Multiplex in Montego Bay, Jamaica, is one of the cinemas operating under the management of Palace Amusement. (File photo)

The management of Palace Amusement Limited in Jamaica is seeking opportunities to generate revenues from other sources since curfew measures continue to impact attendance at its standard cinemas.

One such is the new drive-in cinema in New Kingston, which it established upon the signing of a two-year licence agreement, last year, with Victoria Mutual (VM) Pensions Management Limited for the use of the property situated on Dominica Drive. 

Moviegoers await entry to Palace Cineplex at Sovereign Centre in St Andrew, Jamaica. The management of Palace Amusement decided to close the cinema due to falling attendance and Government-imposed restrictions. (Photo: Brawta Living)

“Operations…did not start at that location until late October 2020, due to curfew restrictions,” the company pointed out.

However, Palace Amusement expects a resurgence in attendance when new movies come out in the summer.

In notes attached to the results for the March 31, 2021 quarter, management stated that with vaccination drive in North America in “high gear” and the summer season approaching, cinema chains have begun to reopen after extended inactivity. 

“Bigger and better pictures are being brought forward for release — signalling a hopeful path to recovery for the industry,” the company outlined.

With a ramped up vaccination programme in North America, and quality summer releases approaching, Palace Amusement is anticipating an improvement in attendance and financial performance in the current quarter. (Photo: Bloomberg)

Still, Palace Amusement is awaiting its own green light from the Jamaican Government to resume normal activities, and has begun to prepare plant and operations to release good-quality product “for our patrons to enjoy in a comfortable and relaxing environment.

“[We] are eager to remind them of the safety measures installed at both our indoor and drive-in locations,” the company added.

Weak revenues, more losses

For the third quarter ended March 2021, Palace Amusement reported revenue of JM$28.4 million, a dip from JM$229.3 million for the similar period in 2020.

“Bigger and better pictures are being brought forward for release — signalling a hopeful path to recovery for the industry”

As a result, the company posted a net loss of JM$79.3 million, compared to a net loss of $49.2 million in March 2020. 

Over the nine months, revenues fell to JM$95 million, compared to JM$899.17 for the corresponding period in 2020.

Net loss for the period totalled JM$254 million, compared to a net loss of JM$49 million a year earlier.

Decline in attendance

In the March 2021 quarter, attendance figures dipped due to a spike in COVID-19 cases and have continued to trend below the previous period’s posting — averaging about 10 per cent of normal numbers. Another Government-mandated closure took effect on March 10 and continues to date. 

Palace Amusement reopened cinemas on 8 July 2020 after nearly four months of closure, but still, attendance has fallen at all venues.

Carib Cineplex, the flagship facility for Palace Amusement in Jamaica
(Photo: Jamaica Observer)

Since then, Government-imposed curfew restrictions has contributed to the reduction in the number of viewings to one per day, further dampening revenues.

Cash preservation, cost control 

On September 30, 2020, management took the decision to close the Palace Cineplex in Kingston and the Palace Multiplex in Montego Bay until further notice. 

To this end, the company continues to take significant operational steps to preserve cash and control costs.

These include termination or deferral of non-essential capital expenditure, as well as the reduction of work hours and rotation of workforce both at the cinemas and the head office.

In addition, the company is pursuing negotiations with service providers and other business partners to manage operational expenses and existing liabilities.