Cineworld cinemas will go dark on Thursday after the delay of the release of a string of long-awaited blockbusters.
The cinema chain announced it will temporarily close 127 Cineworld and Picturehouse sites in the UK, shortly after studios MGM and Universal said that the James Bond film No Time To Die would be pushed back to April 2021.
Marvel film Black Widow, sci-fi blockbuster Dune and Jurassic World: Dominion are also among the high-profile titles that have seen release delays as a result of the global pandemic.
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.
Cineworld will also temporarily shutter sites in the US, where the Regal chain also followed suit.
Chains Odeon and Vue have shared their concerns over the situation and 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.
It had been hoped that the release of Christopher Nolan’s time-bending thriller Tenet would provide a shot in the arm for the cinema industry and lure audiences back to multiplexes after months of closure during lockdown.
The film, starring John David Washington and Robert Pattinson, made more than £5 million at the UK and Ireland box office in its opening weekend alone, but ticket sales have been disappointing in the US, where major markets Los Angeles and New York remain closed.
Filmmakers have expressed their sadness at the news over Cineworld, with Baby Driver director Edgar Wright saying: “As a film goer, I’m gutted about the Cineworld & Picturehouse shutdown.
“There is more to say and do on this, but it’s worth stressing that when I went to Picturehouse Central they went out of their way to make it a safe experience. My heart goes out to all staff affected by this.”
Game Of Thrones actress Laura Pradelska told ITV’s Good Morning Britain she would be “devastated” if the movie-going experience was lost.
She added: “I love going to the cinema by myself, especially as an actor, where there are times where they don’t work every day necessarily, it’s wonderful to go and watch a movie during the afternoon and it’s also something inclusive.”
However, The Thirty Nine Steps actor Robert Powell told the programme: “I think cinemas have only got themselves to blame in many ways.
“It’s no experience to go and sit while somebody is sitting next to you eating cheesy nachos.
“This idea of eating in cinemas randomly, and eating junk food as well, because it’s not as if you are going to be eating a salad or anything like that, it’s not a great experience.”