October 22, 2020

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Cineworld to close all UK sites putting 5500 jobs at risk

3 min read
Cineworld at Fountainpark (top) and Vin Diesel, with director Justin Lin, on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile...

Cineworld at Fountainpark (top) and Vin Diesel, with director Justin Lin, on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile filming the Fast and Furious sequel F9 – which has had its release date delayed. Picture: Lisa Ferguson/JPIMedia.

Britain’s biggest cinema chain is to close its doors after two blockbuster Hollywood movies – including one shot on the streets of Edinburgh – were delayed.

Cineworld is set to mothball all 128 of its sites across the UK including its large outlet at Edinburgh’s Fountainpark.

The closures come as the release of the latest James Bond film was further delayed from November to spring 2021.

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On Friday, the release of the highly-anticipated Fast and Furious sequel F9 – with several scenes shot in the Capital – was also delayed again, while Disney announced last month that its live-action version of Mulan instead debut on its streaming service Disney Plus instead of a theatrical release.

F9 The Fast Saga, starring Vin Diesel and Tyrese Gibson, was due to have been released in cinemas on May 22 but was withheld amid fears the crowd segregation of cinemas would see it struggle to make a profit.

Several scenes from the big budget Hollywood blockbuster were shot in the capital’s Old and New towns last year.

The Fast and Furious movies are always big earners at the domestic and international box office and the absence of F9 will impact the 2020 box office in a major way. The past two films have made over $1 billion.

Just a month earlier the full trailer had been unveiled showed Vin Diesel’s character Dominic Toretto facing off again his brother, Jakob, played by John Cena, with epic car chases and fights across Edinburgh and London – and appearances by Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren.

The Royal Mile, Waterloo Place, George Street and Melville Street will all make an appearance on the big screen for the latest version of the long running franchise. The film is now set for release on May 28, 2021, it was announced by Universal.

The news will come as a hammer blow to the beleaguered Fountainpark entertainment venue, where Cineworld is the main anchor tenant.

Cineworld bosses will 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.

The closure of its 128 sites across the country, although understood to be a temporary measure until next year, will put up to 5500 jobs at risk.

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.Cineworld had reopened most of its cinemas in July when lockdown measures were eased across the country.

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.”

Cineworld will look to reopen next year in line with the big blockbuster releases, according to the reports, which suggest many of the company’s staff will be offered redundancy, with possible incentives to rejoin when cinemas reopen.

The reports are another knock-back for the UK cinema industry, which took a profit hit when the country was plunged into lockdown in March following the outbreak of coronavirus.

The cinema chain, which is the largest in the UK and second largest in the world behind Chinese firm Wanda Cinemas, posted pre-tax loss for the six months to June compares with profits of £110m a year earlier.

Phil Clapp, chief executive of the UK Cinema Association, told the Sunday Times that the James Bond announcement was ‘probably the most serious blow to UK cinema operators of a number of similar announcements over the past few weeks and will undoubtedly cause a significant number of cinemas to close again’.

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