Following the delay of more Hollywood tentpoles — including James Bond film No Time to Die — mega-movie theater chain Cineworld, the second largest exhibitor globally after AMC, is planning to temporarily close or keep shut all of its locations in the U.K. and the U.S., The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.
The British-based company is the largest circuit in the U.K with more than 120 sites, and the second-largest in North America, where it operates roughly 540 locations under the Regal Cinemas banner. While many of its U.K. theaters had reopened at the end of July, a substantial number of its U.S. sites had remained shut after being forced to go dark because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Across Hollywood, the surprise Saturday-night headline prompted immediate concern that AMC Theatres and Cinemark Theates, the other two largest U.S. chains, could soon follow suit. In the U.K., there are now fears that fellow cinema giants Vue and Odeon will also shutter their sites. The movie business had hoped the box office could recover in earnest this fall, but such isn’t the case in many major markets.
The Sunday Times first reported the news on Saturday.
No Time to Die partners MGM, Eon Productions and Universal announced Thursday that the movie is being pushed back from Nov. 20 to late April 2021 because of the ongoing pandemic.
Disney and Pixar’s Soul is likewise expected to scrub its Thanksgiving 2020 release, leaving exhibitors without major fall tenpoles following the delay of No Time to Die, Wonder Woman 1894 and Black Widow. Without fresh titles on the marquee, it will be tough to win over already-wary consumers.
Amid falling revenue over the last few months, Cineworld’s stock was down nearly 15 percent on Sept. 23, and the company warned there was “no certainty” about what impact the pandemic would ultimately have on the business. Rival circuits are likewise in financial jeopary.
“The impact of COVID-19 on our business and the wider leisure industry has been substantial, with the closures of all of our cinemas worldwide for an extended period,” said Cineworld CEO Moshe “Mooky” Greidinger in a recent statement.
The closures in the U.K. are expected to put at risk as many as 5,500 jobs. Cineworld is reportedly writing to the British government, including the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport Oliver Dowden, and prime minister Boris Johnson, to say that the industry is now “unviable.”