Cineworld is to shut all of its 128 UK and Ireland cinemas, putting thousands of jobs at risk, according to reports.
The cinema chain could announce the decision, which would put up to 5,500 jobs at risk, as early as tomorrow, reports The Sunday Times.
It comes as bosses of Cineworld Group PLC, the world’s second-largest cinema chain, are reportedly preparing to write to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and culture minister Oliver Dowden to say the industry has become ‘unviable’.
Cineworld chiefs have blamed the decision, which is expected to be a temporary measure until next year, on the postponement of big budget films in the wake of coronavirus pandemic, the reports say.
Yesterday, the release of the new James Bond movie No Time to Die was delayed until April 2021, just weeks before it was about to be released. The highly-anticipated film had already been postponement from its original release date in April due to coronavirus.
On Friday, the release of the highly-anticipated Fast and Furious sequel F9 was also delayed again, while Disney announced last month that its live-action version of Mulan instead debut on its streaming service Disney Plus instead of a theatrical release.
The new Fast and Furious meanwhile is set for release on May 28, 2021, it was announced by Universal yesterday.
The release of the highly-anticipated sequel F9 has been delayed again as it is now set for release on May 28, 2021 during Memorial Day weekend it was announced by Universal on Friday.
Back in March it was reported that the film was delayed to April 3 2021 according to The Hollywood Reporter.
However the most recent change was made hours after James Bond film No Time to Die delayed its release from November to April 2, 2021.
Cineworld will look to reopen next year in line with the big blockbuster releases, according to the reports, which suggest many of the company’s staff will be offered redundancy, with possible incentives to rejoin when cinemas reopen.
The reports are another knock-back for the UK cinema industry, which took a profit hit when the country was plunged into lockdown in March following the outbreak of coronavirus.
After months of forced closures, Cineworld was due to reopen its theatres on July 10, after lockdown measures were eased by the government, allowing the reopening of cinemas from July 4.
But it delayed the reopening of its cinemas in the UK by more than two weeks until July 31 to coincide with ‘recent adjustments to the schedule of upcoming movie releases’.
Social distancing measures were also introduced, including such as one-way systems, perspex screens for staff, mandatory contactless payment and no more pick and mix.
However, despite reopening, Cineworld raised doubts over its ability to survive a second lockdown as it reported a £1.3bn loss for the first half of the year because of the Covid-19 crisis.
The cinema chain, which is the largest in the UK and second largest in the world behind Chinese firm Wanda Cinemas, posted pre-tax loss for the six months to June compares with profits of £110m a year earlier.
Issues were further compounded by a short supply of big blockbusters throughout the summer.
Christopher Nolan’s spy-thriller Tenent set to be one of the highlights.
However industry experts have reportedly been ‘spooked’ by the film’s lacklustre performance on the big screen, causing other major studios to postpone their major releases.
This includes the latest in the James Bond series ‘No Time To Die’, which had been scheduled to debut in theatres on November 11.
But it will now be delayed ‘in order for it to be seen by a worldwide theatrical audience’, the film’s producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli announced this week.
The latest film in the James Bond series ‘No Time To Die’, which had been scheduled to debut in theatres on November 11, has now been postponed until April 2021
‘We understand the delay will be disappointing to our fans but we now look forward to sharing NO TIME TO DIE next year.’
Meanwhile, Phil Clapp, chief executive of the UK Cinema Association, told the Sunday Times that the James Bond announcement was ‘probably the most serious blow to UK cinema operators of a number of similar announcements over the past few weeks and will undoubtedly cause a significant number of cinemas to close again’.
Yesterday a group on Twitter named the Cineworld Action Group took to the Twitter, where Cineworld was last night trending, to comment on the reports.
The group, which was set up in March and describes itself as an action group formed of and ran by Cineworld employees around the UK, tweeted last night: ‘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.
In a follow-up tweet, the group, which has around 1,200 followers, said: ‘We have found out vital information about our jobs from the media throughout the pandemic.
‘Workers have been left out of discussions that should’ve included our voices.
‘However, in this case it goes beyond belief. To find out you may no longer have a job from the media is awful.’