Cineworld 'considering' closing all UK and Ireland theatres amid financial strain

4 October 2020, 12:56 | Updated: 4 October 2020, 17:46

Cineworld closed during the coronavirus lockdown
Cineworld closed during the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: Getty

By Joe Cook

Cinema chain Cineworld is "considering" closing all of its theatres in the UK and Ireland after the release of the new Bond film was postponed again.

Cineworld is expected to close 128 theatres as soon as next week, according to reports, putting up to 5,500 jobs at risk.

Media reports said the staff will be asked to accept redundancy and may be offered incentives to rejoin when screens reopen next year.

Cineworld said in a statement: "We can confirm we are considering the temporary closure of our UK and US cinemas, but a final decision has not yet been reached."

The new Bond film, No Time to Die, had been set to hit cinemas on November 12, but has been postponed to April next year over concerns audiences are still reluctant to return to the theatres.

Read more: James Bond - No Time To Die delayed for second time over coronavirus

Britain’s biggest cinema chain had reopened most of its locations in July, but warned last week that admissions were not expected to recover to normal levels until at least 2023.

According to the Sunday Times, bosses are writing to Boris Johnson and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden to ask for support for the sector.

Bosses are writing to Boris Johnson and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden to ask for support for the sector.
Bosses are writing to Boris Johnson and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden to ask for support for the sector. Picture: PA

A Cineworld staff member, who did not want to be named, said they feel “betrayed”.

They told the PA news agency: “None of us have been told a single thing yet, so me and my work colleagues are sort of in panic mode right now, wondering what’s going to happen to our jobs, especially this close to Christmas.”

George Simpson, Senior Film Reporter at The Daily Express, told LBC’s Andrew Castle: “Everything was banking on Bond... This is now its fifth release date, it was originally meant to release a year ago.

“Cinemas are reliant on these huge tentpole movies, they call them. Films that everyone will go and see... the ones that are going to make hundreds of millions, maybe a billion dollars.”

Mr Simpson added: “Cinemas are in a dire state. It is all well and good for something like James Bond moving to April or these films saying: 'You know what, we're not going to make any money here, let's move to next year'. But if there are no cinemas to show them in, what is the point?”

Chief executive of the UK Cinema Association, Phil Clapp, told The Sunday Times the Bond announcement “is probably the most serious blow to the UK cinema operators of a number of similar announcements over the past few weeks”.

Mr Clapp said the decision “will undoubtedly cause a significant number of cinemas to close again.”

It follows a slow box office summer, with Christopher Nolan’s Tenet drawing in fewer numbers than expected and many big films, such as Disney’s Mulan, skipping the cinemas entirely and being released on streaming services.

Cineworld said it would update staff and customers "as soon as we can" about any closures.