Cineworld ‘set to close’ all cinemas – including Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds – reports claim
PUBLISHED: 07:31 04 October 2020 | UPDATED: 13:16 04 October 2020
Film fans are reeling today after reports that one of the world’s largest cinema operators could be set to close its venues across the country.
National newspaper reports suggest that Cineworld – which runs cinemas in Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds – is considering the decision to close its screens until the spring following the latest postponement of the new James Bond movie No Time to Die and the delayed releases of Black Widow and West Side Story, also now shelved until 2021.
Ipswich Central chief executive Paul Clement tweeted: “Devastating for so many town and city centres.”
Sarah Barber, Ipswich Borough town centre portfolio holder, said the situation facing cinemas, and the whole of the entertainment and arts industry, demonstrated the need for clear support from central government.
She said: “Venues like the Regent and Wolsey theatres as well really need a clear message of support from government on how they are going to get these venues open, safe and places people feel comfortable to use. If Cineworld do make this decision then that is going to be disappointng for a lot of people but I can also sympathise with the cinema and its predicament.”
With a disappointing number of people using cinemas since screens started reopening in July, big blockbusters were the industry’s great hope of bringing people back to their venues – and generating much-needed cash.
Cineworld 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.
Reports in The Sunday TImes said that Cineworld, the world’s second-biggest cinema operator, could announce this week that it is set to close all its screens until the spring in the United Kingdom and Ireland, putting up to 5,500 jobs at risk.
Cineworld has cinemas in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, Haverhill and Braintree, and runs 128 theatres and 1,180 screens nationwide.
Cineworld declined to comment on the Sunday Times report.
Last month the global chain recorded a loss of £1.3billion in the first half of 2020 and said it may need to raise extra funds.
The group posted the hefty loss for the six months to June 30 following pre-tax profits of £110million a year ago, as revenues plummeted when the lockdown forced cinemas to close.
But it said current trading has been “encouraging considering the circumstances”, with solid demand for action-thriller and spy film Tenet released earlier this month.
A spokesman for Cineworld warned: “There can be no certainty as to the future impact of Covid-19 on the group.
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“If governments were to strengthen restrictions on social gatherings, 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.”
Philippa Childs of union Bectu, which represents people in the cinema sector, said: “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 Phil Clapp said he fears the Cineworld closure is “indicative of challenges faced by the entire UK cinema industry at the moment”.
He said: “Although cinemas opened in July and have been able to deliver a safe and enjoyable experience, without major new titles then we understand we aren’t able to get as many people out of the home as we’d like.
“What we’re picking up from a broad range of our members is that business and trade has got increasingly difficult over recent weeks.”
He added he believes “no-one will be untouched by the current challenges”.
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.
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