Britain’s biggest cinema chain, Cineworld, is to shut all its UK venues, putting up to 5,500 jobs at risk, after the latest James Bond movie was delayed into next year.
Cineworld, which owns the Regal cinema and Picturehouse chains, is understood to be preparing to announce plans to close all its theatres in the UK as soon as Monday, affecting nearly 130 sites. It is also closing its 536 Regal cinemas in the US.
The premiere of the latest 007 flick, No Time To Die, has been twice postponed, from April to 12 November, and now to April 2021, in a big blow to the cinema industry.
The company, the world’s second-biggest cinema operator, has written to Boris Johnson and the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, this weekend to warn them that the industry has become “unviable”. Film studios are postponing blockbuster releases because audience numbers have been slow to recover since the Covid-19 outbreak. Other releases that have been pushed into 2021 include Black Widow and West Side Story.
Cineworld’s theatres reopened in July following the coronavirus lockdown, but it flagged doubts over its ability to survive a second lockdown in September when it reported a £1.3bn loss for the first half of the year.
It said then that admissions had been growing since it reopened 561 out of 778 sites worldwide, thanks in part to local films and the release of Christopher Nolan’s spy movie Tenet. But it warned that its financial future could be in doubt and that it would need to raise more money if authorities introduced further restrictions to combat the next wave of the virus.
The front page of tomorrow’s Times is announcing that Cineworld is planning to close all of its cinemas across the country as soon as this week putting all of our jobs at immediate risk. There has been no consultation with staff whatsoever. pic.twitter.com/16fKxGcNnG
— Cineworld Action Group (@cineactiongroup) October 3, 2020
The Cineworld Action Group, which represents employees around the world, said staff had not been consulted about the company’s plans.
News of the closures was first reported by the Sunday Times. Cineworld declined to comment.