Staff and unions react angrily to possible Cineworld closures
Staff and unions have reacted angrily to the news that Cineworld is considering the closure of all its UK cinemas.
The chain confirmed it was considering temporarily closing its screens in the UK and the US, as blockbuster movies continue to be delayed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The news, which could affect more than 120 sites and more than 5,000 staff, came as a shock to staff, who first read about it on social media.
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.”
On Friday, the studio behind the forthcoming James Bond release No Time To Die, confirmed the film would be pushed back again.
Union Bectu, which represents staff in the cinema sector, urged filmmakers to think “carefully” about the impact delayed releases could have on the industry and said: “The delay in the release of the Bond film, along with the other delayed releases, has plunged cinema into crisis.”
Boss Philippa Childs 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.
The delay in the release of the Bond film, along with the other delayed releases, has plunged cinema into crisis
“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.”
Daniel Craig’s final outing as James Bond will not hit big screens until next April, having originally been intended for release in April 2020.
British Film Institute (BFI) chief executive Ben Roberts raised similar concerns about the prospects of the industry as a whole, but emphasised “great reasons to visit your local cinema – as distributors continue to offer new independent films to audiences”.
His call to get customers back into seats was echoed by the Government, which promised a package of more than £1.5 billion to help the arts and culture industries recover from the pandemic in July.
A spokesman for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “The Government is supporting cinemas through the VAT cut on tickets and concessions, business rates holiday and bounce-back loans.
“Independent cinemas are also eligible for a share of £30 million from our unprecedented £1.5 billion culture recovery fund, and funding has started to be allocated already.
“Cinemas up and down the country are open for business and Covid secure.
“We urge the British public to support their local cinema and save jobs by visiting and enjoying a film in accordance with the guidance.”
Cineworld said in a statement: “We can confirm we are considering the temporary closure of our UK and US cinemas, but a final decision has not yet been reached.
“Once a decision has been made we will update all staff and customers as soon as we can.”