Cineworld to close all UK, Ireland screens as industry becomes unviable due to Covid-19, says British newspaper

LONDON (REUTERS, XINHUA) – Cineworld, the world’s second-biggest cinema operator, is set to close all its screens in the United Kingdom and Ireland as soon as the coming week, London’s Sunday Times reported on Saturday (Oct 3).

The Regal cinema owner write to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Culture Minister Oliver Dowden over the weekend to say the industry has become unviable because of film studios’ decision to postpone big-budget films, the newspaper said.

The new James Bond movie, No Time To Die, became the latest blockbuster to be pushed into next year as the movie industry struggles to get back to business amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Cineworld declined to comment on the Sunday Times report.

The company, which started reopening its sites from July, runs a total of 128 theatres and 1,180 screens in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Cineworld is expected to announce its plan, which could put about 5,500 jobs at risk, as soon as Monday, the report said.

“If governments were to strengthen restrictions on social gathering, which may therefore oblige us to close our estate again or further push back movie releases, it would have a negative impact on our financial performance and likely require the need to raise additional liquidity,” the company said last month.

The release of Black Widow and West Side Story has also been delayed until 2021.

Efforts to get audiences back into theatres have proved disappointing. While bigger chains like AMC Entertainment, Cineworld and others have reopened many locations, crowds have been thin. Small and mid-sized theatre companies have said they may not survive the impact of the pandemic.

Another 12,872 people in Britain have tested positive for Covid-19, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 480,017, according to official figures released on Saturday.

The daily increase, which is nearly double Friday’s 6,968 cases, is partly due to a technical issue which led to a delay in reporting data over the past week, according to a government statement.

The government said now that the technical issue has been fixed, the total reported numbers over the coming days will include some additional cases from the period between Sept 24 and Oct 1.

Coronavirus-related deaths rose by 49 to 42,317, the latest data showed.

The figures were revealed as tighter restrictions came into force at midnight on Saturday in parts of northern England after a sharp rise in coronavirus cases. It is now illegal to meet people indoors from other households in the Liverpool City Region, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough and Warrington.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was necessary to bring in the new measures and urged people in these areas to travel only when it is essential – for example to school and work, and not to attend sports events as spectators.

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