London Riots Spark Fears for Entertainment Businesses

Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Civil unrest dominates British news programs.

LONDON –  Entertainment attractions, cinemas and London’s West End theaters will all be holding their collective breath to see if the civil unrest, looting and rioting of the past two nights spread to the heart of the British capital.

The localized rioting in the North London borough of Tottenham Saturday evening in the wake of a vigil outside a police station for the death of local resident Mark Duggan, shot by police, sparked looting in other hotspots across the capital including an attempt to loot shops at Oxford Circus, in the heart of the West End.

The riots and political fallout from the unrest – which included the early return from vacation of the U.K. government’s home secretary Theresa May to deal with the growing concerns among the public, politicians and police alike – were enough to knock all other news down the media agenda ladder.

Sky News, the BBC, ITV and other television news bulletins led with the tales of looting and rioting in the British capital, while on the radio it led the agenda for most of Monday, knocking the ongoing phone-hacking fallout at News Corp and the financial debt crisis causing global stock market turmoil off the top.

Buildings in Tottenham had been set alight as well as police cars and buses Saturday night and further violence subsequently erupted in Brixton in South London before violence erupted in Hackney in East London late Monday afternoon and Lewisham town centre.

Many of the reports in the media noted the huge use of social media such as BBM and Twitter by the looters to communicate with one another in coordinating civil unrest.

But it remains business as usual for the cinemas, theaters and other entertainment attractions with no reports of forced closures amid fears that the violence, looting and property damage may spread.

A spokesperson for the Cinema Exhibitors Association, the trade body repping movie theater operators across the capital, told The Hollywood Reporter it was not policy to advise its membership on what to do in such a situation.

The CEA noted it will put any members in touch with the Metropolitan Police Force for advise and it would be up to its membership -- Odeon Cinemas, Cineworld and Vue Entertainment included -- to put into force any contingency plans to deal with the situation.

After the July 7 London bombings in 2005, the cinemas refused to close in a bid to present a British stiff upper lip attitude to the terror attack.

But this time, with riot police, dog patrols and a Metropolitan Police pledge to put more visible cops on the beat in the coming nights, it will remain to be seen if punters continue to visit cinemas, theaters and entertainment attractions.

It being the height of the summer, industry observers think London’s summer population of tourists will help keep numbers buoyant.

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