Cineworld, the world's second-biggest cinema operator, said it will temporarily close all its screens in the United States and Britain after studios pulled major releases such as the latest James Bond film.
The Regal cinema owner, which began reopening in July after Covid-19 lockdown restrictions started to ease, employs 37,482 people across 787 venues in the U.S., Britain and central Europe, with 546 sites in America.
The chief executive of Cineworld said he had no choice but to close UK and U.S. sites because the cinema chain was bleeding too much cash to keep them open, and that the operations might resume in “two months, or a bit longer.”
"We had reached the stage where we had no alternative, it was a very, very difficult decision for us, mainly in view of the move we will have to take towards the employees," CEO Mooky Greidinger told Sky News on Monday.
"From a liquidity point of view, we were bleeding much bigger amounts when we are open than when we were closed."
The release of the new James Bond movie, "No Time To Die," was pushed into next year on Friday, crushing hopes for a 2020 industry rebound as rising rates of the coronavirus prompt new restrictions and keep viewers away.
Cineworld’s statement on Monday, confirming leaks over the weekend, spelled out the scale of job losses from its move, which affects thousands of ancillary staff including cleaners and security as well as its own employees.
The entertainment industry has been among the heaviest hit by social distancing and other restrictions, with Walt Disney last week announcing plans to lay off roughly 28,000 employees, mostly at its U.S. theme parks.
Cineworld began reopening in July after virus-related restrictions started to ease, but the further postponement of the Bond film and others including Marvel’s “Black Widow” have left the months ahead looking bleak.
“Without these new releases, Cineworld cannot provide customers in both the U.S. and the UK... with the breadth of strong commercial films necessary for them to consider coming back to theatres,” it said.
While some cinemas in China, the world’s second-largest movie market, have reopened with strong audiences, there is a lack of major movies to watch on the big screen.
Studios have chosen to release some of this year’s major planned blockbusters on Netflix or the Disney Plus streaming platform, and have canceled others until 2021.
Britain's Sunday Times said the London-listed company had written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Culture Minister Oliver Dowden to warn that the industry was becoming unviable.
It warned investors on Sept. 24 that it might need to raise more money if its sites were forced to shut again, after it swung to a $1.64 billion first-half loss. Its shares have fallen 82 percent this year.
Efforts to get audiences back into theaters have proved disappointing. While bigger chains such as AMC Entertainment have reopened many locations, crowds have been thin. Small and mid-sized theater companies have said they may not survive the impact of the pandemic.