By Muvija M and Yadarisa Shabong
Cineworld, the world’s second-biggest cinema chain, will close its UK and US movie theaters this week, leaving as many as 45,000 workers unemployed for the foreseeable future as it fights to survive a coronavirus collapse in film-making and cinema-going.
The company said the reluctance of studios to go ahead with major releases such as the new James Bond film had left it no choice but to close all 536 Regal theaters in the US and its 127 Cineworld and Picturehouse theaters in the UK from Oct. 8.
Its statement follows a grim evaluation by ratings agency S&P’s of rival AMC Entertainment on Friday which gave the US-based company six months unless it is able to raise more capital.
Cineworld’s announcement on Monday detailed the scale of job losses from its move, which affects thousands of ancillary staff including cleaners and security as well as its own employees.
In an interview, Cineworld Chief Executive Mooky Greidinger said the closures were temporary, and he did not expect any locations to shutter permanently due to the pandemic. He said he saw mid-December as the “best-case scenario” for reopening but acknowledged it could be later.
The key, he said, is that authorities must allow theaters to open in New York and more widely in California. Studios have told cinema operators they will not release major films without those markets, he said.
Theaters need to know they will have a slate of new films to show for six to eight weeks after “Wonder Woman 1984,” which is currently scheduled to open on Christmas.
“We need a clear lineup to follow,” Greidinger said. “We will not take the risk again to (reopen) and there will be no movies afterward.”