* FY pretax profit up 15 pct to 38.5 mln stg
* Group revenue up 3 pct to 358.7 mln stg
* New year has started well, sees attractive 2013 release schedule
LONDON, March 7 (Reuters) - British cinema chain Cineworld Group said 2013 had started strongly with the record-breaking James Bond movie “Skyfall” still pulling in film goers, as it posted a 15 percent rise in annual profit.
The UK’s largest operator by box office market share, which runs around 80 sites across Britain and one in Ireland, said pretax profit was 38.5 million pounds for the year to Dec. 27, up 15.3 percent on 2011 and in line with forecasts.
Higher ticket prices and better retail sales helped total revenue rise 3 percent to 358.7 million pounds.
For much of 2012 admissions had suffered due to big events like the Diamond Jubilee, European Soccer Championship and London Olympics luring film goers from screens, but recovered thanks to a late surge in big releases, including Skyfall, the UK’s highest ever grossing film.
The group said the latest Bond installment, as well as Christmas blockbuster “Life of Pi” had combined well with strong new titles like “Les Miserables” to put the market as whole 20 percent up year-on-year.
Shares in the firm, the UK’s only listed cinema chain, were up 1 percent to 283.5 pence at 0920 GMT, having risen 41 percent in a year.
Cineworld, which will open four new cinemas this year, said it expected to benefit from a number of potential smaller blockbusters this year, such as Star Trek and Iron Man 3, in which it typically gains a larger market share.
As part of its expansion Cineworld agreed in December, subject to regulatory approval, to buy independent movie theatre operator Picturehouse for 47.3 million pounds. The chain, which runs London’s trendy Ritzy and will appeal to a more niche audience, will be run separately within the Cineworld Group.