5,500 jobs at risk as Cineworld plans closure of all UK sites

By Caitlin Doherty and Megan Baynes, PA
·4-min read

Cinema chain Cineworld is set to close its UK sites in the coming weeks.

The closures come as the release of the latest James Bond film was further delayed from November to spring 2021, the PA news agency understands.

As first reported in The Sunday Times, bosses will write to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden to tell them that cinema has become “unviable” as studios keep putting back blockbuster releases.

The closure of its 128 sites across the country will put up to 5,500 jobs at risk, and staff have voiced anger at how they have been treated by the company since screens were forced to close earlier this year.

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.”

And Philippa Childs of union Bectu, which represents people in the cinema sector, said: “If these reports are true, then the first people Cineworld should be informing are their staff who will suffer as a result – not the Sunday newspapers.

“Whilst cinemas have been able to open since July and the experience of those who have visited since then has been an overwhelmingly positive one, the stark reality is that without new releases it is unlikely that footfall will increase to a level that makes opening financially viable.

“The delay in the release of the Bond film along with the other delayed releases has plunged cinema into crisis.

“Studios will have to think carefully when considering release dates about the impact that will have for the long term future of the big screen.”

The head of the UK Cinema Association said he fears the Cineworld closure is “indicative of challenges faced by the entire UK cinema industry at the moment”.

Phil Clapp told BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House programme: “Although cinemas opened in July and have been able to deliver a safe and enjoyable experience, without major new titles then we understand we aren’t able to get as many people out of the home as we’d like.

“What we’re picking up from a broad range of our members is that business and trade has got increasingly difficult over recent weeks.”

He added he believes “no-one will be untouched by the current challenges”.

In July, the Government promised a package of more than £1.5 billion to help the arts and culture industries forced to shut down earlier this year as a result of the pandemic.

According to analysis by real estate adviser Altus Group, there are 596 cinemas in England and Wales, which were allowed to start their reopening processes in the summer.

The British Film Institute (BFI) said it is “deeply concerned” about the impact delayed releases and local lockdowns are having on cinemas.

CEO Ben Roberts added: “The Government-backed Cultural Recovery Fund is of vital importance to struggling independent cinemas, and we will continue to work with the exhibition sector over this difficult time.

“But there are still great reasons to visit your local cinema – as distributors continue to offer new independent films to audiences.”

Daniel Craig’s final outing as spy James Bond will not hit big screens until next April, it was announced on Friday.

No Time To Die was originally scheduled for release in April 2020, but was first pushed back to November as a result of the pandemic.

A statement on the film’s Twitter account said: “We understand the delay will be disappointing to our fans but we now look forward to sharing NO TIME TO DIE next year.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “The Government is supporting cinemas through the VAT cut on tickets and concessions, business rates holiday and bounce-back loans. Independent cinemas are also eligible for a share of £30 million from our unprecedented £1.5 billion culture recovery fund, and funding has started to be allocated already.

“Cinemas up and down the country are open for business and Covid secure.

“We urge the British public to support their local cinema and save jobs by visiting and enjoying a film in accordance with the guidance.”