U.K. Exhibition Giant Cineworld Begins Layoffs After Coronavirus Closures

Courtesy of Cineworld

Cineworld in London's Leicester Square

The world's second-largest exhibitor shuttered all its U.K. and Ireland branches on Tuesday.

Three days after it made the unprecedented decision to close all its cinemas in the U.K. and Ireland, Cineworld — the U.K.'s largest exhibitor and the second-biggest cinema chain internationally — has begun laying off many of its staff. 

The redundancies are being made at both its Cineworld sites and those of its art house chain Picturehouse.  

Many of the impacted Cineworld staff were on casual "zero hours" contracts, now without any shifts until the cinemas reopen so effectively without any work. The Hollywood Reporter understands that the company has offered employees with more than three years’ service partial payments until business resumes, while allowing them to take paid employment elsewhere during the shutdown. These employees also have the option of voluntary redundancy, while a hardship fund is reportedly being established.

In a statement sent to The Hollywood Reporter, Cineworld said: “Like other businesses in the retail and leisure industry we are facing an incredibly challenging time as a consequence of the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Following government guidance, we have taken the decision to close all our cinemas across the U.K. and Ireland to protect the health and well-being of our employees and customers."

It continued: "We value our employees and want to do everything we viably can to support them in these difficult and uncertain times. Our aim has been to preserve jobs and continue to pay as many staff as possible while they are not working."

Even before the closures, Cineworld — which owns Regal Cinemas in the U.S. and is currently awaiting shareholder approval from its $2.3 billion acquisition of Canada's Cineplex — had warned that any extended shuttering of screens to contain the coronavirus could cast serious doubt on its ability to carry on operating. On Tuesday, its shares slumped to their lowest level ever.