Giant silver screens are being plunged into darkness in hundreds of cinemas across the US and the UK.
Cineworld Group has announced it will temporarily switch the projectors off and close all its 500+ US cinemas and over 100 in the UK.
The not entirely unexpected shuttering will affect roughly 45,000 workers.
Cineworld Action Group, representing employees, complained that the company did not consult staff about the decision. It tweeted, “Workers have been left out of discussions that should’ve included our voices. It goes beyond belief. To find out you may no longer have a job from social media is awful.”
Cineworld lost US$1.6 billion in the first six months of 2020 and is trying to figure out how to keep from going out of business entirely.
The cinema chain’s decision is just the latest example of how hard every aspect of the movie industry has been hit by the global coronavirus pandemic, says Variety.
First, lockdowns forced cinemas to close, which in turn forced many studios to delay the release of several blockbuster films, including the latest James Bond, “No Time to Die”. Other studios chose to stream their movies, as Disney did with “Mulan”, which tanked.
With audiences still nervous of sitting in the dark with strangers during a pandemic, even if socially distanced, and almost no new blockbusters to lure punters in, things have been looking grim for cinema chains relying on Hollywood movies.
US-based AMC Theatres, the largest cinema chain in the world, on Tuesday pledged “not to close any of our movie theaters that have reopened”, Variety reported.
In the UK, Odeon Cinemas, which is owned by AMC, has confirmed some of its venues will be moving to a ‘weekends only’ schedule from this weekend as the business is struggling to stay open with so few new releases. In an email to customers, the company said: “We look forward to reopening full-time when the big blockbusters return.”
“No Time to Die” starring Daniel Craig in his final outing as suave British secret agent James Bond will now be released in April 2021, a year later than initially planned.
The producers said they have done this, “in order that the film would be seen by a worldwide theatrical audience” rather than streamed to small screens at home.
Whether there will be any giant silver screens still open by April remains to be seen. If not, audiences eager for thrills as 007 chases baddies through exotic locations may have to enjoy the spectacle on their tellies anyway.