2020’s film slate has been obliterated by the coronavirus pandemic with major studio tentpole movies being pushed back to 2021 and beyond. This has left audiences without major blockbusters such as Mulan, Black Widow and Wonder Woman 1984 and film studios without their essential lifelines to continue throughout the year. Earlier this week, it was announced that even films scheduled for release in 2021, like The Batman are being pushed back to 2022, so it is clear that the impact on the industry will be felt well into the new year.
Christopher Nolan was vocal in the discussion about ‘saving’ cinema before Tenet (2020) disappointed at the US and UK box office. The director hoped that audiences could go to the movies to ensure that something on the scale of Cineworld’s closure would not happen, when in reality, going to a packed cinema was specifically discouraged by the government during the early months of the pandemic. UK cinemas have struggled through nationwide and local lockdowns in anticipation of a particularly major financial boost from Daniel Craig’s newest venture as 007 in No Time to Die. The film has not been without its own obstacles: delayed by a script re-write from Fleabag mastermind Phoebe Waller-Bridge and then later by Danny Boyle exiting as director in 2019. Set for an April 2020 release from new director Cary Fukunaga, the spy flick has now been pushed back a further two times by production company MGM which has proven too much for cinema giant Cineworld.
After reporting a £1.3bn loss for the first half of 2020 and now losing such a major audience draw, the cinema chain which accounts for almost 30% of the UK and Ireland’s box office is temporarily closing all of its theatres until another lifeline is offered. The closure is set to affect 128 theatres and over 5,500 employees, as well as custodian workers and security staff. Cineworld CEO Moshe Greidinger said the decision was “not made lightly” and that great attempts were made by the chain to “support safe and sustainable reopening.”
Many film fans have expressed their sadness at the announcement on social media with many urging the government to ‘save’ the industry with financial support, similar to the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme for the hospitality industry. However, Boris Johnson spoke on Monday about the situation the cinema industry is in and urged people “to go out to the cinema, enjoy themselves and support businesses” in ways that are Covid-secure. It is clear that Cineworld does not see this as a possibility or at least one that is sustainable, with their own statement on Monday claiming that they were unable to provide customers “the breadth of strong commercial films necessary for them to consider coming back to theatres” during the current global crisis.
Ultimately, Cineworld’s closure for the foreseeable future can serve as a reminder that the entertainment industry requires tangible and continuous support from the government. If audiences cannot sit and enjoy movies in a safe and secure environment, it is highly unlikely that the cinema itself is responsible.
Featured Image: IMDb