CINEWORLD says it had a “strong opening weekend” after months of pandemic closures and expects a “good recovery”.

The cinema chain – which operates the nine-screen multiplex at Whiteley Shopping Centre and Southampton's Harbour Lights Picturehouse – said its first week since the UK reopening was buoyed by the success of Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway.

Cineworld and Harbour Lights Picturehouse owner makes £2.2bn loss

It added that the weekend performance “went beyond our expectations as customers were eager to return to the movies and enjoy the full movie experience”.

Last Monday, cinemas were given the go ahead to welcome customers again after more than four months of enforced closures due to the third coronavirus lockdown.

The Covid crisis saw delays to big film releases and a heightened shift towards streaming services.

Mooky Greidinger, chief executive of Cineworld, said the business expects its recovery to gather pace with another “strong” weekend predicted amid releases of Cruella and A Quiet Place 2.

Cineworld said its UK cinemas reported strong concession income as moviegoers bought plenty of popcorn and drinks.

In March, the group slumped to a record 3.01billion US dollar (£2.2bn) loss for the past year after revenues were hammered by the closures.

The chain said it also opened 167 more US cinemas this week, which it operates under the Regal chain, meaning that around 97 per cent of its cinemas are now trading.

Mr Greidinger said: “We are thrilled to have our cinemas back in business in the US and UK and to welcome movie fans back to the big screen for an exciting and full slate of films.

“We are especially pleased with the warm welcome our employees have received, and the positive feedback from returning guests.

“When combined with improving consumer confidence and the success of the vaccination rollout, we expect a good recovery in attendance over the coming months, noting the record-breaking success of F9 in the Asian market.

“We are excited for our customers to experience the magic of big screen entertainment again, all made possible by the hard work of our colleagues around the world, and remain committed to be the best place to watch a movie.”