The boss of Cineworld has cited the “wrong decision” of film studios shifting release dates of titles as a contributing factor to the temporary closure of its theatres in the UK and the US.
The cinema chain has announced it will close 127 Cineworld and Picturehouse sites in the UK as of Thursday this week.
The announcement followed another blow to the release schedule as James Bond studios MGM and Universal announced that the franchise’s much-awaited title No Time To Die would be pushed back to April 2021.
Cineworld chief executive Mooky Greidinger told Sky News they had enjoyed a “very warm welcome from customers” when they reopened after months of closure.
He added: “The studios hesitated and kept on postponing the movies. Many significant movies have moved, like Mulan, like Black Widow … Wonder Woman moved from October to December, and on Friday we got the news that the Bond movie – that, needless to say, for the UK is the biggest movie of the year – also decided to move.”
As markets in the US, especially New York and California, remain closed during the pandemic, it has caused many studios to cancel releases.
Citing Christopher Nolan’s Tenet as an example, Mr Greidinger said it had been “very successful internationally and the movie will reach something like 300 million dollars gross in the international market … but I would say also the studios have their side of the story, the investment today of the movies is huge.
“But opening movies without New York, without most of California in the US is also very significant. It’s really difficult to understand how a state like New York can allow indoor dining, allow casinos, allow bowling alleys and many other indoor activities and, on the other hand, saying that cinemas should still wait, and despite the fact we are operating cinemas now around the world for, three to … some of them two months, and we didn’t have any issues with Covid because of the safety precautions that we are taking.
“People are saying to us we feel safe in the cinema so I guess it’s a wrong decision from the studios really to move the movies in such a way.”
The boss of rival chain Vue Cinemas described the Bond release delay as a “body blow”.
Chief executive Tim Richards said that, while studios are under pressure, they are taking decisions by focusing on the US, rather than cinemas in Europe and Asia.
“Everybody is struggling. My one frustration is I think the studios are guilty of being a little bit US-centric and seeing what’s happening in New York and LA, and not really looking globally, ” he told Sky News.
Asked if Vue would shut any sites, he said: “We’re being forced right now to look at options.”
It was previously announced that Wonder Woman 1984 will now be released in December rather than October, with other titles like Disney’s live-action remake of Mulan released straight on to streaming platforms instead.
Espionage thriller Tenet made more than £5 million at the UK and Ireland box office over its opening weekend on the August bank holiday as it became the first big blockbuster to debut post-lockdown.
At the end of last week, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden visited one of the 42 cinemas receiving a share of the Government’s £650,000 coronavirus support fund for the independent cinema sector.
The minister shared photos from his visit to Reel Cinemas’ outlet in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, on Friday, where he was accompanied by members of the British Film Institute.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has acknowledged there will be “tough times ahead” in the jobs market following the Cineworld announcement, but encouraged people to go to the movies.
Cineworld did not specify how many jobs are at risk in the UK; however, on Sunday, the PA news agency understood that 5,500 would be hit.
Mr Johnson told reporters in central London: “Obviously we hope to reduce, to keep the numbers of people who lose their jobs down as much as we can, but clearly there are going to be tough times ahead.
“That’s why we’ve already invested £190 billion in supporting jobs, livelihoods around the country.
“Supporting local cinemas – I think we’ve already put £30 million in, but what I would say to people is that local cinemas do now have ways of making their shows go on in a Covid-secure way and I’d encourage people to go out to the cinema, enjoy themselves and support those businesses.”