In a trading update, the cinema chain said its first week since the UK reopening was buoyed by the success of Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, which drew in family audiences.
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.
It came after a tough 2020 impacted by lockdowns, delays to release dates 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 $3.01 billion (£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.
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.”
AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould said: “Cinema operators have been waiting for this moment for a long time, keeping their fingers crossed that consumers would feel confident enough to return to the big screen. Judging by Cineworld’s trading update, it looks like people have missed the experience and we’ve just had a bumper weekend for cinema visits.
“Cineworld doesn’t give any figures for sales or admissions, so we’re only going on the word of the management that performance was good. Yes, the company said UK trading beat its expectations – but what if they were extremely low in the first place?
“The weather was atrocious in many parts of the UK and so going to the cinema would have been a welcome relief, particularly to keep children entertained. But what happens if we finally get some good weather this weekend and from then on?
“The nation might prefer to enjoy the great outdoors and associated leisure activities, instead of sitting in a dark room with strangers and worrying about whether the ventilation system is up to scratch.”