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MARKET REPORT: Cineworld shares take a pummelling

MARKET REPORT: Cineworld shares take a pummelling after Warner Bros unveils plans to debut films online and in theatres at the same time next year

Cineworld shares took a pummelling after Warner Bros unveiled plans to debut films online and in theatres at the same time next year. 

In a move that sent shockwaves through the entertainment industry, the studio said its new approach will apply to highly-anticipated titles such as The Matrix 4, Dune, The Suicide Squad and The Sopranos prequel The Many Saints Of Newark. 

They will be accessible to consumers in the US – the world’s second biggest cinema market behind China – through its HBO Max streaming platform. 

The change threatens to hurt box office sales just as struggling cinema chains are hoping to stage a comeback from the coronavirus pandemic. Many plan to reopen in the coming months thanks to the emergence of potential vaccines – but under Warner Bros’ plan audiences will instead be able to stay at home to watch the films. 

It upends a long-standing tradition that usually sees films debut for an exclusive period in theatres first. Following the announcement, UK-based Cineworld’s shares fell 15 per cent, or 10.94p, to 62.06p. The battered business was forced to turn to investors for £550m last month to help it survive the pandemic. But yesterday, Cineworld – a vocal opponent of online-first releases – said it was confident its cinemas will soon stage ‘a great comeback’. 

It added: ‘We believe that at such a time, Warner Bros will look to reach an agreement about the proper window and terms that will work for both sides. Big movies are made for the big screen.’ Cineworld makes 73 per cent or £2.4billion of its revenues in the US, where it owns the Regal Cinemas chain. AMC, the biggest US chain, has suggested it will seek a bigger share of box office revenues from Warner Bros to offset losses the changes will cause. 

Warner Bros had already revealed plans to debut Wonder Woman 1984 on HBO Max this Christmas but that move had been seen as a one-off. 

Experts said its latest shock decision was probably designed to boost subscriptions to its streaming platform. 

Elsewhere, energy giant SSE was up 1.9 per cent, or 25.5p, to 1386.5p after agreeing to sell a 10 per cent stake in the Dogger Bank Wind Farm, off the East Yorkshire coast, for £202.5m. 

The under-construction scheme is the world’s largest wind farm project and will generate 3.6 gigawatts – enough to power 6m homes. SEE is selling the stake to Italy’s Eni, one of the world’s biggest oil companies. 

It will use the proceeds to help fund further investments in low-carbon schemes. 

The firm also said that the deal, which is expected to complete early next year, will boost its profits. Good cheer was also in strong supply at James Bond car maker Aston Martin after shareholders approved its fundraising plans. 

Shares in the firm revved up 6.3 per cent, or 4.7p, to 79.95p after the vote yesterday, which cleared the way for a £125m cash injection. 

As part of the fundraising – Aston’s third this year – MercedesBenz will lift its stake in the British company to up to 20 per cent by 2023, making it one of the largest shareholders. Lawrence Stroll, the billionaire investor who led a £500m rescue of Aston this year, also claimed the firm was seeing ‘phenomenal’ demand, boosted by a rebound in China. 

Shares in magazine publisher Future, which announced a £600m takeover of price comparison website Gocompare last month, edged up 0.3 per cent, or 6p, to 1790p. 

Sir Peter Wood, the insurance tycoon behind Gocompare who is already set to get a substantial stake in Future through the deal, has added further to his holding with a £2m share purchase.