The future of the cinema industry is at risk, along with many thousands of jobs within it.
Earlier this year, the COVID-19 lockdown saw cinemas across the UK closed and while many cinemas have since reopened, the pandemic is continuing to have an adverse effect on the whole industry.
Cinemas have shown that they can host socially distanced audiences but there are now warnings about what the future may hold for the industry.
The world’s second-largest cinema chain, Cineworld is set to temporarily close its UK & US cinemas in the coming weeks and the firm is writing to the UK Government to say that the industry is now ‘unviable’ – as first reported in the Sunday Times. The closures in the UK and US could see 45,000 jobs affected.
Meanwhile, Odeon is to cut the opening hours for around a quarter of its cinemas in the UK and Ireland, with films only to be shown at weekends in some locations. The chain has not commented on potential job cuts, though at least some cuts seem likely given the latest move.
Cinemas have been badly hit by the delay of some films being released due to the Coronavirus pandemic. This, along with changed attitudes on visiting public spaces has severely impacted the extent to which cinemas have been able to attract the public and bring in needed revenue after months of closures straining the finances of many cinemas.
Notably, the release of the new James Bond film ‘No Time To Die’ has been delayed again, and is now not expected to hit the big screen until April 2021. The film had originally been due to be released in Spring 2020, however, it was delayed over fears that large numbers of people visiting cinemas to watch it could lead to an increase in Coronavirus infections.
Last week, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced government support of £650,000 to 42 independent cinemas across England as part of the £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has encouraged Britons to visit cinemas, though for many, doing so right now is an unattractive proposition. Many are remaining cautious and limiting their interactions with others due to fears of a second wave of Coronavirus cases, and the number of films available to watch on the big screen is also somewhat limited. Instead, many have been attempting to recreate a cinema experience in the home, with a large rise in subscriptions to streaming services since the start of the Coronavirus lockdown in the UK.
What guidelines have been set out to help ensure cinemas are safe during the COVID-19 pandemic?
A document entitled ‘Cinemas – keeping workers and customers safe during COVID-19‘ was produced by the UK Cinema Association in consultation with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and other bodies and organisations. The 32-page document is designed to help the UK cinema sector to understand how to work safely during the pandemic.
Some of the guidelines include;
- Social distancing measures in place
- Increased cleaning
- Mandatory wearing of face coverings except when eating/drinking
- Reducing venue capacity
The measures are designed to keep staff and customers safe – though they can also put off some people from visiting venues.
When did cinemas reopen?
Cinemas opened at different times following the easing of lockdown measures on Saturday 4 July. Only a small number of the UK’s cinemas reopened on the first weekend that they were allowed to following the lifting of restrictions, with many reopening in the fortnight following.
Some cinemas have only recently reopened and some are remaining closed or are operating on reduced hours due to a lack of major blockbuster films currently being screened.
What films have been delayed due to the pandemic?
Many different films have been delayed either once or multiple times due to the Coronavirus pandemic, which has had a severe impact on the ability of cinemas to operate and attract customers. Just some of the films to have been delayed include;
- Avatar 2 – delayed from December 2021 to December 2022
- The Escape Room 2 – delayed to January 2021
- Ghostbusters: Afterlife – delayed to March 2021
- Minions: Rise of Gru – delayed to July 2021
- No Time To Die – delayed to April 2021
- Venom: Let There Be Carnage – delayed to June 2021
- Tom & Jerry – delayed to March 2021
Some films have been released despite the pandemic and some more are to be released soon. The recent release of sci-fi blockbuster Tenet provided a boost to many cinemas, with the film taking £5.33 million in its first week