In a move which will send shock waves through the entire entertainment industry, movie giant Cineworld have confirmed that they are closing all of their UK cinemas until spring 2021.
The move, which will happen on Thursday the 9th of October 2020, follows the postponement of the next instalment of the James Bond series, No Time To Die. The movie, which was set to be released in early April 2020, was delayed until November 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic, only to be postponed again last week, this time until April 2021.
With few movies on general release, and with no major releases planned in the all important run up to Christmas, the UK Cinema Industry has found it increasingly difficult to attract movie goers in recent times.
The world’s second largest cinema operator, Cineworld has 120 sites in the UK alone, with the company also owning a number of other cinemas, including the Picturehouse chain.
The company has written to the Conservative Government about the issue, explaining that the cinema industry is now “unviable” due to the Coronavirus Crisis and resultant lockdown measures.
On Monday the 5th of October, Cineworld released a statement spelling out its plans. Talking about the forthcoming closure, Cineworld Chief Executive Mooky Greidinger said that the decision “had not been made lightly”.
Acknowledging the tough economic climate and the lack of new releases, Greidinger said that the chain had done everything they could to operate successfully during the pandemic. “We did everything in our power to support safe and sustainable reopenings in all of our markets,” he told the BBC.
Although Cineworld’s chief executive was unable to reveal the date on which the chain would reopen, Greidinger said that Cineworld would continue to monitor the situation and would “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 move is expected to have a significant impact on Cineworld’s employees, with over 5,500 jobs in the UK alone thought to be at risk.
The head of the UK Cinema Association, Phil Clapp, told the BBC that Cineworld’s position reflected the plight of the entire UK cinema industry in 2020. “Although cinemas opened in July and have been able to deliver a safe and enjoyable experience” he said, “without major new titles then we understand we aren’t able to get as many people out of the home as we’d like.”
Cinemas across the UK were forced to close at the end of March 2020 at the height of the Coronavirus Crisis. However, the UK government gave cinemas the right to reopen in early July, subject to the appropriate safety measures being adopted.
Cineworld was the first big chain to reopen following the shut down, adopting a phased return by opening two cinemas a week. However, the need for social distancing within cinemas has placed an additional strain on the industry, with theatres forced to organise their seating so as to allow a two metre gap between groups or to take other mitigating actions where this was not possible.
The lack of big releases has also had a devastating effect on the industry with Christopher Nolan’s Tenet one of the few blockbusters to open during the pandemic. With such massive challenges, news of the postponement of the new James Bond movie has put the final nail in the coffin of the cinema industry in 2020.
In separate news, the Odeon group have also announced plans to shut cinemas, with the company saying that a quarter of its cinemas would cease operating during the week for the forseeable future.
The chain, which operates 120 cinemas in the UK and Ireland, will now move to a weekend only model for 25% of its cinemas.
More information on Cineworld can be found here.
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