Published: 06:55, 04 October 2020
| Updated: 09:34, 04 October 2020
Cinema giant Cineworld is reportedly closing all its screens after the new James Bond film was delayed again.
The chain, which has cinemas in Dover, Rochester, Ashford and Bexleyheath, will announce the decision next week, today's Times reports.
Bosses will write to PM Boris Johnson and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden to say the industry is no longer viable because of the decision to postpone big-budget releases during the pandemic. It plans to keep its 128 cinemas closed until the spring, putting 5,500 jobs at risk.
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.'