Village Roadshow looks to harness The Force

Village Roadshow says a new trilogy of Star Wars movies will contribute to a predicted record year. Photo: LucasfilmMad Max: Fury Road has already been a standout this year.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is set to pull in the teens.

Village Roadshow is hoping to hitch a ride on Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon in 2016, with company’s co-chief executive Graham Burke predicting a record year for its cinema business.

The first half of the 2016 financial year will see a new James Bond film, the conclusion of The Hunger Games and the beginning of a new trilogy of Star Wars movies.

Investors reacted positively to the result and forecast, with shares surging 7.8 per cent to $6.36.

“We believe it’s going to be gigantic,” Mr Burke told Fairfax Media.

“If we move into the second half, with the cinema business and those giant movies and more following, we’re looking at another record year, that’s our projection.”

Village Roadshow’s cinema business delivered 14.3 per cent growth in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation to $71.5 million – which was a record.

The improvement was underpinned by a strong film line-up over the year. Movie stand-outs

“The year just gone, some of the stand-outs were Jurassic World, Imitation Game, American Sniper, Fast and Furious 7, Avengers and Mad Max Fury Road,” Mr Burke said.

“It was a very powerful year of product and I think we’re going to match, if not exceed, that year of product in the coming year.”

But it was all rosy for Village Roadshow. Bad weather ended up hurting the bottom line of its theme park business. EBITDA in that part of the business slipped 4 per cent to $92.5 million, while in its film distribution business it fell 17 per cent to $34.6 million.

Mr Burke said rain cost the business $20 million.

“It’s been a solid year, considering the weather. We look forward to hitting it out of the park in 2016 with some decent weather.”

Overall, Village Roadshow net profit was down 4 per cent to $43.9 million.

“Equally, it’s been a year where we are putting in place some terrific building blocks for our future, building our cinemas in new population corridors, building out our gold class cinemas in America, the CITIC deal we put in place to grow and fund theme parks in China, and plans that we’re working up to grow our theme park business on the Gold Coast,” Mr Burke said.

Mr Burke said the 2016 film pipeline and predictions of better summer weather should help drive the business over the next year.

“In the theme park business, the long-range forecast, which has a certain amount of witchcraft to it, is for a very hot summer. If we get the hot summer and get the good weather, we’ll do the business,” he said.

The company will pay a final dividend of 14¢ a share in October.