Cineworld is drawing up plans to close all its cinemas in the UK and Ireland within the coming weeks.
The world’s second largest cinema operator is understood to be writing to Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, and Oliver Dowden, the culture minister, this weekend, warning that the industry is “unviable”.
Cineworld is expected to point to film studios’ decisions to delay blockbuster releases amid the coronavirus pandemic, The Sunday Times first reported, with the new James Bond movie ‘No Time To Die’ pushed back a second time last week.
Cineworld has 128 cinemas across the UK and Ireland. Shuttering all those sites would put up to 5,500 jobs at risk. The majority of staff would be asked to accept redundancy.
Cineworld declined to comment.
It comes just weeks after the cinema chain revealed it had recorded $1.6bn (£1.3bn) in losses for the six months to the end of June. Revenues were down by two thirds to $712m.
The company was forced to close most of its theatres between the middle of March and August due to Covid restrictions.
It has since opened up almost three quarters of its sites, which also include the Regal Cinemas chain in the US as well as the Picturehouse brand in the UK.
Cineworld was reported to be also planning to shutter 500 locations in the US. A decision is expected as soon as Monday.
Cineworld had previously warned that “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 industry has been plagued by the Covid-19 pandemic, with social distancing restrictions making it difficult for large crowds to gather in venues.
There had been hopes that the premiere of the new Bond film may draw movie-goers back to cinemas. Releases of West Side Story and Black Widow were also delayed this year, whilst Disney pulled its live action remake of Mulan from schedules completely, running it on its streaming service instead.