Sunday Update: Cineworld has said no formal decision has actually been made at this time but admits they are considering the closures carefully.
Saturday: Entertainment venues such as multiplexes were some of the first and most upfront business casualties of 2020’s COVID pandemic. With very few films or people confident to turn up, the year has become a barren wasteland for the big screen and a serious business problem. Many cinema chains temporarily shut their doors, hoping to return to business in the late summer, which became the early Autumn and now has no end in sight.
Various tentpole films such as Mulan, Tenet and No Time to Die postured about keeping their releases, but Mulan ultimately moved to Disney+, Tenet‘s limited release was hardly a success and this week we’ve seen 007 shift to next Easter. So it’s no real surprise that the cinema-chains that were thinking about re-opening and counting on such titles to help revive film-going are now having to face the fact that there may be no light at the end of the tunnel this year.
The Sunday Times was the first to report that the UK’s Cineworld chain is re-shuttering all its 128 venues across the UK and Ireland this coming week and there’s talk that there are plans for its US-based Regal multiplexes (the second biggest chain in America with 543 venues) to also close their doors – though an official statement has yet to be issued on the latter. The company suffered a loss of $1.6 billion during the first half of 2020 which just escalated their woes. Apparently no employees have yet been informed of the decision and the impact it will have on their jobs, though the chain recently said it doubts it will see a financial improvement until 2023. Some are speculating that if the closure goes on into 2021, some chains will simply close permanently, unable to sustain their profits/debt margins any more.
There are some studio titles planning release over the next few weeks, but none of them are expected to have much pulling-power and several are looking to play at limited venues for shorter windows so that they can then hit VOD platforms over the lucrative Christmas period, hopefully clawing back some of the returns they’re missing from a standard release.