According to the Sunday Times, UK cinema giant Cineworld could close all of all its cinemas in the UK and Ireland, as well as 543 venues in the US under the Regal banner.
The news is a devastating blow for the 37,482 people employed by the chain and for cinemagoers alike. Unable to recoup some of the losses from earlier in the summer due to COVID-19, the chain has decided to ‘mothball’ its sites. Effectively, this will put them into hibernation for the winter, with the company likely offering redundancy to staff and hoping to re-employ them next year if the financial situation allows it.
There’s no doubt that further delays to the new Bond film, No Time To Die, has influenced the decision. The blockbuster was initially scheduled for a June release before being pushed back to November, but this weekend’s news that it would be delayed yet again until April 2, 2021, seems to have been the final straw for the business.
With blockbusters like Tenet seeing a lukewarm international reception despite strong marketing campaigns, it’s likely that cinemas just haven’t turned around enough profits to make the trade viable. Not to mention the indomitable presence of streaming services, which has deterred people from physically visiting a screen, and the increasing availability of festival material online.
The UK’s other large cinema chains Odeon and Vue have yet to comment on their situation, and it’s not clear how indie outlet Picturehouse has fared. Cineworld hasn’t yet commented [update: Cineworld has confirmed the temporary closure of its UK and US sites via Twitter], but it expected to write to the Prime Minister and the UK’s culture Secretary Oliver Dowden to explain that the exhibition sector is now ‘unviable.’
We can confirm we are considering the temporary closure of our U.K. and US cinemas, but a final decision has not yet been reached. Once a decision has been made we will update all staff and customers as soon as we can.
— Cineworld Cinemas (@cineworld) October 4, 2020
To put it simply, I’m devastated. As a member of several years, I’m truly sorry that a place that has given cinemagoers so many good memories and a little bit of escapism from the real world has buckled under financial pressure. It’s been clear for a while that the situation was precarious: but even after the chain re-released classics on the big screen in recent weeks and offered incentives such as discounted booking, food and drink, it hasn’t been enough to entice enough viewers back in.
The scale of these losses can’t be overstated. Like many others, I can only hope that the chain recovers some of its losses over the winter and can make a comeback next year.