Cinema giant Cineworld has confirmed it will temporarily close all of its sites in both the UK and the US in the wake of movie studio delaying their major film releases during the pandemic.
The move will affect around 45,000 employees in the two countries, Cineworld’s two main markets.
As of this Thursday, October 8, the firm’s 127 Cineworld and Picturehouse theatres in the UK will close, alongside 536 Regal theatres in the US.
Cineworld chief executive Mooky Greidinger said: “This is not a decision we made lightly, and we did everything in our power to support safe and sustainable reopenings in all of our markets – including meeting, and often exceeding, local health and safety guidelines in our theatres and working constructively with regulators and industry bodies to restore public confidence in our industry.
“We are especially grateful for and proud of the hard work our employees put in to adapt our theatres to the new protocols and cannot underscore enough how difficult this decision was.
“Cineworld will continue to monitor the situation closely and will communicate any future plans to resume operations in these markets at the appropriate time, when key markets have more concrete guidance on their reopening status and, in turn, studios are able to bring their pipeline of major releases back to the big screen.”
The announcement comes after it was reported that Cineworld directors will to write to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, warning that cinema has become “unviable” as studios keep putting back blockbuster releases in the hope of drawing in bigger crowds at a later date.
Last month, Cineworld reported half-year losses of £1.3bn.
No Time To Die, the latest Bond film, had been postponed from April to November because of the pandemic and has now been delayed until next April.
Other blockbusters including Marvel’s Black Widow and Steven Spielberg’s new adaptation of West Side Story, have also been pushed into 2021.
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Tenet, meanwhile, was released in cinemas following the end of lockdown, and has so far managed to make $307m at the box office,
Ahead of today’s confirmation, Philippa Childs of union Bectu, which represents people in the cinema sector, said film release delays such as the new Bond movie had plunged cinema into crisis.
She added: “Studios will have to think carefully when considering release dates about the impact that will have for the long term future of the big screen.”
This morning, Cineworld said: “As major US markets, mainly New York, remained closed and without guidance on reopening timing, studios have been reluctant to release their pipeline of new films.
“In turn, without these new releases, Cineworld cannot provide customers in both the US and the UK – the company’s primary markets – with the breadth of strong commercial films necessary for them to consider coming back to theatres against the backdrop of Covid-19.”
Mr Greidinger said Cineworld will wait until “the appropriate time” to talk about reopening.