Cineworld Group is set to shutter its theaters in the UK and the US as the coronavirus continues to heap pressure on the film industry, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The move comes after Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on Friday canceled the November debut of the new James Bond movie, pulling the plug on one of the few big films left on the 2020 release calendar. In the U.S., Cineworld’s Regal Entertainment Group is likely to close all its operations while current circumstances persist, the person said. Details of Regal’s plans were first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
The London-listed group could suspend operations at its UK venues as soon as this week, and is writing to Prime Minister Boris Johnson this weekend to warn that delays to blockbuster releases have made the industry unviable, the person said, confirming details reported earlier by the Sunday Times.
The virus has slammed consumer confidence with the UK economy the hardest hit in Europe, contracting more than 20 per cent in the first half. With infections surging again after pubs, restaurants and cinemas reopened over the summer, the threat of renewed restrictions has dashed hopes for a quick rebound.
Cineworld’s plan to close its US locations isn’t definite, and a final decision isn’t likely to be made until Monday or Tuesday, the person said. The UK closures could be announced as soon as Monday in a move that could put as many as 5,500 jobs at risk, he said.
Theater bosses had been hoping that the industry’s prospects would be starting to turn around by now, with AMC Entertainment Holdings and others expressing confidence that the release of Tenet and other blockbusters would help to boost ticket sales. In the four weeks since its US release on September 3, the $200 million production generated just a little over $40 million. Fear of catching Covid-19, social-distancing rules, and a continued shutdown in New York and Los Angeles are all keeping fans away. The industry received another blow as Disney made the surprise announcement that it would debut Mulan on its own streaming service, while Warner Bros. decided to push back the planned October release of Wonder Woman 1984 to Christmas Day.