Sunday 4 October 2020 10:57 am

Cineworld to close all UK theatres over Covid-19 film release delays

Cineworld is preparing to close all of its UK cinemas due to delays to film releases during the coronavirus pandemic, putting 5,500 jobs at risk. 

The cinema chain, which operates 128 branches in the UK and Ireland, will write to the Prime Minister and culture minister Oliver Dowden, saying the industry is “unviable” in the current climate. 

Read more: Cineworld warns on future as it sinks to $1.6bn loss

Film studios have postponed big budget releases during the coronavirus pandemic over fears that audience numbers will be too low. 

The latest James Bond film No Time to Die has had its release date pushed back again from November to April next year. 

It was originally set to be shown in April this year, at the height of the coronavirus lockdown.

A poster for the new James Bond movie “No Time to Die”. The movie’s release date has twice been delayed by the Covid-19 outbreak (AFP via Getty Images)

‘As soon as this week’

The Sunday Times, which first reported the potential closures, said Cineworld is drawing up plans to shutter theatres as soon as this week. 

The company last month posted a first-half loss of $1.6bn due to the coronavirus outbreak and warned that it may be forced to raise more cash.

Cineworld reported revenue of $712.4m in the six months to the end of June, down 67 per cent on last year, after it was ordered to close all of its venues from March.

The firm said it had taken a number of measures to mitigate the impact of the virus, including negotiating rent relief and deferrals with landlords, using government support schemes and cutting salaries.

Read more: Coronavirus: Cineworld in legal battle over unpaid lockdown rent

Cineworld also raised an additional $360.8m during the period to help shore up its balance sheet.

Christopher Nolan’s film “Tenet” was released internationally on August 26, to mixed reviews but eager theatre-goers (AFP via Getty Images)

It said that reopened venues had performed well, largely due to the release of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet.

However the firm warned of ongoing uncertainty due to the possibility of new government restrictions or additional delays to film releases.