UPDATED: Cineworld could shutter 543 of its Regal Cinema venues in the U.S. and all cinemas across the U.K. and Ireland this coming week, just a day after James Bond film “No Time to Die” was pushed to April 2021.
On Sunday afternoon U.K. time, Cineworld confirmed that it is “considering the temporary closure” of its U.K. and U.S. cinemas, but that a final decision hasn’t yet been reached.
Variety understands that staff were informed of Cineworld’s plans on Sunday — ahead of the company’s statement — with HR explaining that the closure of all cinemas is “one option that is strongly being considered,” though a decision hasn’t yet been made.
Variety understands from sources that the chain may close all sites in both countries as early as this week. Regal is the second largest domestic chain in the U.S., while Cineworld is the U.K.’s biggest cinema operator.
In the U.K., Cineworld is understood to be writing to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden this weekend to explain that the exhibition sector is “unviable” due to studios delaying tentpoles as a result of anxious audiences steering clear of cinemas amid the global pandemic. The Cineworld closures will put up to 5,500 jobs at risk in the U.K.
Sources indicate a reopening date hasn’t yet been set, but cinemas could stay closed until 2021.
The swift move by the Mooky Greidinger-run chain, whose U.K. closures were first reported by The Sunday Times, follows Friday’s bombshell Bond announcement. Though there had been speculation that “No Time to Die” could move from its Nov. 12 and Nov. 20 slots in the U.K. and North America, respectively, many in the industry, including several global exhibition bosses, believed it would ultimately hold firm. Its new date of April 2, 2021, has come as a distressing shock to the exhibition sector, which is starved of vital blockbusters to bring audiences back to movie theaters.
Cineworld staff weren’t informed of the company’s decision in advance of Saturday’s news. Cineworld Action Group, a collective of employees supported by entertainment union Bectu, tweeted on Saturday that “there has been no consultation with staff whatsoever.” News of the closures first emerged via a preview of The Sunday Times’ front page, posted late on Saturday night.
Cineworld’s shock move comes weeks after the company said in its half-year results that there was no certainty around its COVID-19 outlook. In a forward-looking statement, the firm 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.”
In the U.K., Cineworld opened its doors after a four-month shutdown only on July 31. The company had planned to open July 10, but pushed its dates back after “Tenet” was delayed the first time around. In the U.S., Regal Cinemas began opening venues in late August, ahead of the release of the Christopher Nolan thriller.
“No Time to Die,” starring Daniel Craig in his final stint as the agent formerly known as 007, will hit theaters on April 2, 2021 — a year later than initially planned.
“MGM, Universal and Bond producers, Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, today announced the release of ‘No Time To Die,’ the 25th film in the James Bond series, will be delayed until 2 April in order to be seen by a worldwide theatrical audience,” the filmmakers said in a statement on Friday. “We understand the delay will be disappointing to our fans but we now look forward to sharing ‘No Time To Die’ next year.”
Numerous movies were shuffled around in the wake of “Tenet’s” lackluster U.S. box office performance in September. Because the Bond franchise relies heavily on international ticket sales, the decision to move “No Time to Die” into next year is not entirely surprising: Coronavirus cases in Europe have started to rise again and New York and Los Angeles, the two biggest U.S. markets, remain closed.
The delay is major blow to theaters, and there’s a chance more could be forced to close given the lack of new content on the horizon. Pixar’s “Soul” on Nov. 20 is now the next big movie slated for theatrical release. However, there are rumblings that Disney will move the animated adventure and possibly even put it on Disney Plus, the studio’s subscription streaming service. Two Warner Bros. titles, “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Dune,” are still set for December, though there’s a chance those could be postponed again as well.
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