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Regal profit falls; box office receipts lag

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Regal Entertainment Group, the No. 1 U.S. movie theater operator, posted a lower quarterly profit and said its box office receipts failed to match up to the brisk pace of the industry.

Shares of Regal fell 4.7 percent on Thursday, after it said box office receipts per screen were flat year-over-year in its fiscal first quarter, which ran from January 2 to April 2, while industry-wide box office receipts rose about 1.5 to 2 percent per screen over the same period.

"Investors look really close at how Regal performs versus the industry and were slightly disappointed they underperformed," said Barton Crockett, an analyst with Lazard Capital Markets, who nevertheless said he was encouraged by a strong summer line-up for the box office and the company's expectations it will command higher 3-D ticket premiums.

Regal said net income fell to $21.3 million, or 14 cents a share, in its fiscal first quarter that ended April 2, from $27.5 million, or 17 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding special items, profit was 14 cents a share, below analysts' average forecast of 16 cents, according to Reuters Estimates.

Regal blamed some of the lag on the timing of its fiscal quarter and the loss of some high-volume holidays such as New Year's Day. U.S. box office receipts rose 9.5 percent in the calendar first quarter, Regal said.

On a conference call, Regal CEO Michael Campbell said 3-D films like "Monsters vs. Aliens" had commanded premiums of $3.50 to $4.00 on tickets, but that he expected those premiums to increase with more 3-D releases, eventually hitting $5.

He also said Regal and other theater chains were working on completing a financing agreement with major studios so that more screens can be upgraded digitally to accommodate a big upcoming slate of 3-D films.

Campbell said Regal was monitoring the swine flu situation but that it had not had any impact on attendance.

"We have pre-established plans and procedures in place to make sure facilities are safe for staff and guests," he said.

Regal said it was looking ahead to an action-packed summer film slate featuring both proven franchise films and big-budget original films.

Regal's shares were down 63 cents or 4.7 percent at $12.72 on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday afternoon.

(Reporting by Sue Zeidler and Tiffany Wu, editing by Dave Zimmerman and Matthew Lewis)


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