5,500 jobs at risk as Cineworld plans closure of all UK sites

Cinema chain Cineworld, which has a site at Middlesbrough, is set to close its UK sites in the coming weeks.

The closures come as the release of the latest James Bond film was further delayed from November to spring 2021, the PA news agency understands.

As first reported in The Sunday Times, bosses will write to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden to tell them that cinema has become “unviable” as studios keep putting back blockbuster releases.

The closure of its 128 sites across the country will put up to 5,500 jobs at risk, and staff have voiced anger at how they have been treated by the company since screens were forced to close earlier this year.

A Cineworld staff member, who did not want to be named, said they feel “betrayed”.

They told the PA news agency: “None of us have been told a single thing yet so me and my work colleagues are sort of in panic-mode right now, wondering what’s going to happen to our jobs, especially this close to Christmas.”

And Philippa Childs of union Bectu, which represents people in the cinema sector, said: “If these reports are true, then the first people Cineworld should be informing are their staff who will suffer as a result – not the Sunday newspapers.

“Whilst cinemas have been able to open since July and the experience of those who have visited since then has been an overwhelmingly positive one, the stark reality is that without new releases it is unlikely that footfall will increase to a level that makes opening financially viable.

“The delay in the release of the Bond film along with the other delayed releases has plunged cinema into crisis.

“Studios will have to think carefully when considering release dates about the impact that will have for the long term future of the big screen.”

The head of the UK Cinema Association said he fears the Cineworld closure is “indicative of challenges faced by the entire UK cinema industry at the moment”.

In July, the Government promised a package of more than £1.5 billion to help the arts and culture industries forced to shut down earlier this year as a result of the pandemic.

Cineworld had reopened most of its cinemas in July when lockdown measures were eased across the country.

Daniel Craig’s final outing as spy James Bond will not hit big screens until next April, it was announced on Friday.

No Time To Die was originally scheduled for release in April 2020, but was first pushed back to November as a result of the pandemic.

The Northern Echo | Durham