Published: 08:16, 05 October 2020
| Updated: 09:27, 06 October 2020
Cinema giant Cineworld is closing all its screens, potentially costing up to 45,000 jobs worldwide.
The decision, which comes after the film industry was hit by the latest James Bond film was delayed until 2021, is thought to affect up to 5,500 workers in the UK, although the company has not specified a number.
All 127 Cineworld and Picturehouse sites in the UK, including those in Kent, will close on Thursday, confirming reports over the weekend.
Overall around 45,000 employees are affected in both countries, as 536 Regal theatres in the US will shut down because of the decision.
Chief executive Mooky Greidinger said: “This is not a decision we made lightly, and we did everything in our power to support safe and sustainable reopenings in all of our markets.”
Cineworld said on Monday: “As major US markets, mainly New York, remained closed and without guidance on reopening timing, studios have been reluctant to release their pipeline of new films.
“In turn, without these new releases, Cineworld cannot provide customers in both the US and the UK – the company’s primary markets – with the breadth of strong commercial films necessary for them to consider coming back to theatres against the backdrop of Covid-19.”
Mr Greidinger said Cineworld will wait until “the appropriate time” to talk about reopening.
Cinema chains had hoped that the planned release of Bond movie No Time to Die would give a huge boost to a sector that has been devastated by coronavirus.
But on Friday film studio MGM said the film, due to hit UK cinemas on November 12 having already been delayed from April, would be pushed back to next Spring.
It was a major blow to cinema operators who had brought staff back from furlough and reopened in anticipation of a busy opening weekend.
Phil Clapp, chief executive of the UK Cinema Association, said: “The announcement is probably the most serious blow to UK cinema operators of a number of similar announcements over the past few weeks and will undoubtedly cause a significant number of cinemas to close again.”
Cineworld had only reopened its Kent cinemas in June.
Social distancing measures were put in place across all areas within its cinemas, with an updated booking system that allowed friends and family to sit together while ensuring a safe distance between customers from different households.
Film start and end times were also staggered to reduce crowds in foyers and corridors.
A spokesman for the chain said at the time: "Cineworld is excited by the great movie line up to follow the reopening of cinemas, starting with the highly-anticipated new Chris Nolan movie Tenet and immediately after that with Mulan, a new Disney adventure movie.
"Cineworld, as always, greatly believes in the theatrical experience and is fully committed to be the best place to watch a movie."
At the Ashford Cineworld, work is continuing on a long-awaited extension which will see an IMAX and 4DX screen added to the site.
The development also includes two new restaurants either side of Pizza Hut - one in the cinema extension and another separate unit.
Ashford Borough Council approved the scheme in 2016, which also features a reworked entrance to the existing Cineworld, as well as tweaks to the car park.
Bosses initially had permission for three new screens, but lowered that to two in 2018.
They also plan to refurbish the 12 existing screens at the Ashford site, which first opened in 1999.
The decision to postpone Bond was also a huge blow to smaller operators including Picturehouse Cinemas, which runs the Carlton in Westgate.
Managing director Adam Cunard told The Times trading had been 'horrendous.'