Video report by ITV News Business and Economics Editor Joel Hills
Cinema chain Cineworld has confirmed it is to temporarily close its sites in the UK and US, creating job fears for thousands of employees.
The move - which comes after big studios started to delay their major film releases to wait for better audiences - affects 45,000 jobs across the two countries, 5,500 of which are in the UK, creating fears over their future employment.
From Thursday, 127 Cineworld and Picturehouse theatres in the UK will close, and 536 Regal theatres in the US.
The closures come as the release of the latest James Bond film was further delayed from November to spring 2021.
Bosses are set to write to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden to tell them that cinema has become “unviable” as studios keep putting back blockbuster releases.
Cineworld had reopened most of its cinemas in July when lockdown measures were eased across the country.
ITV News Correspondent Sejal Karia says Cineworld had been pinning its hopes on the new Bond film encouraging viewers to return to cinemas across the country
In a statement, Cineworld Chief Executive Mooky Greidinger said: “This is not a decision we made lightly, and we did everything in our power to support safe and sustainable reopenings in all of our markets – including meeting, and often exceeding, local health and safety guidelines in our theatres and working constructively with regulators and industry bodies to restore public confidence in our industry.
“We are especially grateful for and proud of the hard work our employees put in to adapt our theatres to the new protocols and cannot underscore enough how difficult this decision was.
"Cineworld will continue to monitor the situation closely and will communicate any future plans to resume operations in these markets at the appropriate time, when key markets have more concrete guidance on their reopening status and, in turn, studios are able to bring their pipeline of major releases back to the big screen.”
A Cineworld staff member, who wished to remain anonymous, told ITV News they were "devastated" by the news.
"We're not stupid - when there's no films to show, what are we going to sell? So a lot of the staff have been quite sceptical, have been bracing for bad news".
Philippa Childs of union Bectu, which represents people in the cinema sector, said: "If these reports are true, then the first people Cineworld should be informing are their staff who will suffer as a result – not the Sunday newspapers.
The head of the UK Cinema Association said he fears the Cineworld closure is "indicative of challenges faced by the entire UK cinema industry at the moment".
Phil Clapp told BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House programme: "Although cinemas opened in July and have been able to deliver a safe and enjoyable experience, without major new titles then we understand we aren’t able to get as many people out of the home as we’d like.
In July, the government promised a package of more than £1.5 billion to help the arts and culture industries forced to shut down earlier this year as a result of the pandemic.
A spokesperson for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: "The government is supporting cinemas through the VAT cut on tickets and concessions, business rates holiday and bounce-back loans.
"Independent cinemas are also eligible for a share of £30 million from our unprecedented £1.5 billion culture recovery fund, and funding has started to be allocated already.
"Cinemas up and down the country are open for business and Covid secure.
"We urge the British public to support their local cinema and save jobs by visiting and enjoying a film in accordance with the guidance."
Daniel Craig’s final outing as spy James Bond will not hit big screens until next April, it was announced on Friday.
No Time To Die was originally scheduled for release in April 2020, but was first pushed back to November as a result of the pandemic.
A statement on the film’s official Twitter account said: “We understand the delay will be disappointing to our fans but we now look forward to sharing NO TIME TO DIE next year.”