On the evening of the 3rd of October 2020, with confirmation on the 5th of October, it was revealed through an article in The Times newspaper that Cineworld would be considering shutting all 128 cinemas across the UK for the rest of the year. This is due to a lack of big releases after No Time to Die moved to April 2021. With the cinema only being able to show classic movies and smaller hits, it was not stable enough to keep going through the pandemic. This will result in a potential 5000+ redundancies within the company, with some potentially being offered to come back when they do reopen.
Firstly, I would like to emphasise the point that only the article in The Times made and that no other news outlet is saying. The Times states in the final line of their front-page story: “The majority of Cineworld’s staff will be asked to accept redundancy, with possible incentives to rejoin the company when theatres reopen – likely to be next year”. As of right now, this is not a permanent closure for Cineworld. This is just temporary when there are no major blockbusters to show and a pandemic with rising cases daily in the UK. There is reason to stay hopeful, and know that a world where we can see a massive blockbuster every week is coming in the future.
As much as I am upset about this news and the idea that I won’t be able to use my Unlimited card again for a while, that is nothing in comparison to the news that the staff will be seeing for the next few days. It’s hard enough during these times when jobs are being made redundant daily, but this is on another scale. These poor workers didn’t find out from the company’s head office, it seems like they found out through the media. Even if this is a temporary situation and they are getting to come back in 2021, that is still a rough Christmas filled with job hunting (which, from experience is tougher than it has ever been) and uncertainty. The fact that newspaper outlets found out about this news before the staff did is disgusting and I feel sorry for every single one that is going through a tough time. They had it bad enough at the start of the pandemic, and they have it even harder now.
There is one thing that every news outlet has done with this news that has annoyed me: blamed Universal for postponing the release of No Time to Die back to April 2021. Was the Bond movie the last big movie to potentially release until December? Well, guessing that Pixar’s Soul will most likely be on Disney+, yes. However, can we blame a studio for seeing the release of Tenet and realising that with tighter lockdown rules in the UK and rising cases all across Europe and America that now isn’t the best time to release a film of this scale? No, we cannot blame Universal for putting themselves first and postponing the film to a later date.
Who we can blame, however, is the UK Government for the handling of the arts sector. Unlike most industries, who are either back up and running or allows for flexibility such as online shopping, the arts doesn’t have that. You cannot run a theatre production without a packed crowd from seat to seat, and they have now just lost their biggest season of the year with many Christmas pantos off. Whilst companies have tried the VOD service, that doesn’t help the cinemas who make a majority of their money back from concessions, not the movies themselves.
The UK Government is getting rid of the furlough scheme at the end of October, replacing it with a scheme that will help staff but only if they are back at work. It is clear that cinema staff at Cineworld will not be working during this time, and will not receive any help to keep them afloat whilst doing so. The UK Government ran schemes for individual industries, such as restaurants and cafes, to encourage people to go back and enjoy their service. There was nothing of the sort for cinemas or any of the arts sector, who had to discount out of their own pockets to try and encourage people back into the seats.
I want to take this time to thank every single cinema staff across the UK. You had a hard task in making the environment work during a pandemic and you all did so well to keep me and other film fans safe. I have been to both Cineworld and my local cinema, the Belmont Filmhouse, and all of the safety protocols were in place. I felt safe enough to go and see 13 films in the cinema since August 26th, from the new releases in Tenet and The New Mutants to the classics such as The Karate Kid and the Back to the Future trilogy. The one way systems, the blocked-off seats to allow for social distancing, the incredible staff. I felt safe going to the cinema, and I will still feel safe if I am still able to go to Vue and Belmont Filmhouse in my city when Cineworld closes their doors.
I took the news of the Cineworld closure really hard, and I still do. I have been an Unlimited member for five years now (I even remember my first Unlimited screening) and I plan to stay a member if, or when, Cineworld open their doors again. This is not a single movie’s fault for closing their doors. This is not a single person’s fault for not feeling safe during a pandemic, as everyone has to right to stay within their comfort levels during a pandemic. This is just a horrible situation all around, and the ones I feel the worst for are the workers. Thank you for the work you did at Cineworld, thank you for helping me feel safe every time I went to a screen, thank you for turning up so that I could have my two-hours of entertainment of a regular basis.