Cineworld has confirmed that it is considering whether to close all of its 128 cinemas in the UK and Ireland, as well as its US theatres, putting thousands of jobs at risk.
The cinema giant issued a statement after early reports sparked panic among its staff, a number of whom called out the company on social media.
“We can confirm we are considering the temporary closure of our UK and US cinemas, but a final decision has not yet been reached,” a Cineworld spokesperson said.
“Once a decision has been made we will update all staff and customers as soon as we can.”
The news comes directly after the announcement that the release of new James Bond film No Time to Die has been delayed to April 2021. The highly anticipated Fast and Furious sequel, F9, was also pushed back.
Executives at Cineworld Group PLC, the world’s second-biggest cinema chain, are reportedly preparing to write to prime minister Boris Johnson and culture minister Oliver Downden, to tell them that the industry has become “unviable”.
The decision to close will be blamed on the postponement of major blockbusters amid the coronavirus pandemic, the reports say.
It is believed the closures would be temporary, with a view to reopen next year to coincide with the delayed major releases.
After the report emerged, a group on Twitter named the Cineworld Action Group claimed on Saturday there had been “no consultation with staff whatsoever” regarding the closure of cinemas.
“The front page of tomorrow’s [Sunday] 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 said.
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
A statement added: “We have found out vital information about our jobs from the media throughout the pandemic.
“Workers have been left out of discussions that should’ve included our voices. However, in this case it goes beyond belief. To find out you may no longer have a job from the media is awful.”
A Cineworld staff member, who did not want to be named, told the PA news agency that they feel “betrayed”.
“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,” they said.
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”.
The Independent has contacted Cineworld representatives for comment.
Additional reporting by Press Association
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