Bosses at the Cineworld multiplex chain have deferred their pay packets for the past year after the company was forced to shut its entire portfolio of 787 cinemas.
The world’s second largest cinema operator said it is also suspending payment of its proposed dividend for the fourth quarter, as it looks to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
And it has confirmed that staff made redundant before the Government announced its Job Retention Scheme have now been told they can choose to be “furloughed” and receive 80% of their pay.
Cineworld said the Government-mandated closure of cinemas has been “extremely challenging”.
Therefore it has put on hold the payment of a 4.25 cents (3.4p) per share dividend payout for the final quarter of 2019 and upcoming 2020 quarterly dividends.
It came as the business confirmed its executive directors will defer salaries and bonuses, while non-executive directors will also defer fees.
Cineworld said it has held discussion with landlords, the film studios and major suppliers as it has sought to preserve cash.
The company added that it is also “curtailing all currently unnecessary capital expenditure”.
The cinema business said it is also discussing its ongoing liquidity requirements with its lending banks.
In a statement, Cineworld said: “This has obviously been extremely challenging in many respects and our first priority has been the health and safety of our customers, employees and other stakeholders.
“This is a painful but necessary process as before the onslaught of the Covid-19 virus, we were excited and confident about the group’s future prospects.
“With very few exceptions, the good relationships we have built up over the years have been supportive and understanding of our efforts and, together with us, our industry partners look forward to the time when we shall again be able to open our doors and provide entertainment and pleasure to our customers.”
Meanwhile, the firm has moved to reassure its 12,000 employees – staffing 99 of its multiplexes and 26 “boutique” Picturehouse cinemas – after making some redundant when the chain shut cinemas in March.
It stressed they are all re-hired and placed on furlough.
A spokesman said: “We were very pleased when the Government announced its financial scheme to support companies like ours.
“This scheme will allow us to do what we couldn’t do before, which is to offer all our employees who are unable to work while our cinemas are closed, to be furloughed and still to be paid during this time, as well as keep their jobs for the future.
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“The Government package was a real game changer and we wait for clarification regarding the details.
“The well-being of our employees has always been a top priority for Cineworld and the company will continue to support them as much as possible.”
Disgruntled workers, who formed the Cineworld Action Group (CAG), in protest, welcomed the company’s move.
But CAG still wants the firm to top-up the Government’s bail out by paying workers 100% of their salaries.
A CAG spokesperson also called on bosses to make an apology to staff “to help the healing process”.