Cineworld (CINE.L), Britain’s biggest cinema chain could close all its screens in the UK and Ireland, as soon as next week, following the news that the latest James Bond movie would be delayed until April next year.
The operator plans to write to prime minister Boris Johnson and the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, to say that the industry has become “unviable,” according to reports in the Sunday Times.
The move could put up to 5,500 jobs at risk, if the plans go ahead. It will reportedly ask its staff to accept redundancy, with possible incentives to rejoin the company when theatres reopen — likely to be next year.
Like many others in the leisure and hospitality industries, Cineworld was impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen many blockbuster movies delayed as filming was postponed.
On Friday, MGM and Britain’s Eon Productions announced that “No Time To Die,” which was first scheduled for release in April 2020, would be pushed back for the second time.
Film industry bosses hoped the James Bond movie, which was due to hit UK cinemas on 12 November would boost cinema-goers and revive the sector.
Other blockbusters such as Marvel’s “Black Widow” and “West Side Story” have also been delayed until 2021.
Cineworld, which has 128 cinemas in the UK, started reopening its theatres in July after lockdown measure were eased. At the time, Cineworld Group Plc said that 561 of its 778 global sites had reopened, with 200 cinemas in the US, six in the UK and 11 in Israel still closed.
Cineworld Action Group, which is run by and represents Cineworld employees, tweeted: "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.”
The group also said that “there has been no consultation with staff whatsoever."
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. pic.twitter.com/16fKxGcNnG— Cineworld Action Group (@cineactiongroup) October 3, 2020
Last week, the world’s second-biggest cinema chain, warned further global COVID-19 restrictions or film delays may force it to raise further cash after it revealed $1.6bn (£1.3bn) half-year losses.
The cinema chain had made a $139.7m profit in the same period a year earlier. The pandemic wiped out more than two-thirds of its revenues, which slid from $2.15bn in the first half of 2019 to $712.4m in the first half of this year.
“There can be no certainty as to the future impact of COVID-19 on the group,” it said.
“If Governments were to strengthen restrictions on social gathering, which may therefore oblige us to close our estate again or further push back movie releases, it would have a negative impact on our financial performance and likely require the need to raise additional liquidity.”
The group would risk breaching financial covenants in December in a “severe but plausible” scenario of further prolonged shutdowns in the US, UK and other markets, it said. Options include not only requesting extensions of existing loans, but also raising equity.