U.K. exhibition giants Cineworld, Odeon and Vue are both shutting all of their cinemas due to the coronavirus.
The announcements from Odeon and Cineworld were made in quick-fire succession Tuesday morning, less than a day after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged the public to avoid unnecessary social activity such as visiting pubs or theaters. Vue’s came just a few hours later.
Cineworld, the world’s second largest exhibitor and owner of U.S. cinema giant Regal, said it was closing all of its cinemas, including its art house Picturehouse chain, across the U.K. starting from Wednesday and Ireland starting Tuesday. The closures are until further notice. Cineworld’s stock was down 25 percent as of noon London time.
“This decision was made in light of the current coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and recent UK government advice, which the company has been carefully monitoring and following,” it said in a statement.
Odeon, which was acquired by AMC Theatres in 2016, operates some 122 sites across the U.K., including the Odeon Luxe in London’s iconic Leicester Square, where many premieres take place. In a message on it social media channels, it also said that “following government guidelines” its cinemas would be closed “until further notice.”
Vue, which also has operations in the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Italy, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Taiwan, is shutting 91 sites across the U.K. and Ireland.
“As you would expect, we are also doing our part by putting employment policies in place so that our staff are protected and are not penalised financially,” the company told ITV News.
Cineworld had already warned that, should it be forced to shut screens to contain the coronavirus, the move would cast serious doubt on its ability to carry on operating. On Monday, its shares slumped to their lowest level yet, wiping some 71 percent off the value of the business.
Around the same time as Cineworld and Odeon announced their decisions, the British Film Institute revealed that it was also closing its flagship site, the BFI Southbank in central London, canceling all upcoming events and screenings.
With coronavirus now a global pandemic — one that could keep populations around the world away from public spaces, like multiplexes, for weeks or even months — analysts earlier this month estimated that the film industry’s hit from diminished box office revenue and impacted production could amount to $5 billion. However, with the crisis unfolding each day, this figure is now considered conservative.
The virus, which causes the respiratory illness known as COVID-19, has already led to Chinese theaters to be shuttered, with much of Europe and now some chains in the U.S. following suit.
Industry events have also fallen victim to the coronavirus, the likes of MIPTV, SXSW, Coachella and many more having been canceled or postponed.
As the virus continues its march across the globe, the outbreak has prompted Hollywood to postpone the launch of major movies and shows, along with productions.