Cineworld to close all cinemas in United States, Britain and Ireland

The movie theatre chain employs more than 37,000 people around the world

FILE PHOTO: A Cineworld cinema logo is pictured in Canary Wharf in London, Britain, March 11, 2020. REUTERS/Keith Weir/File Photo

Cineworld, the world's second-biggest cinema operator, will close all its screens in the United States, Britain and Ireland this week after studios pulled major releases such as the latest James Bond film, a person familiar with the situation said.

The Regal Cinemas owner, which began reopening in July after Covid-19 lockdown restrictions started to ease, employs 37,482 people across 787 venues in the US, Britain and central Europe, with 546 sites in America.

The release of the new James Bond movie, No Time To Die, was pushed into next year on Friday, crushing hopes for a 2020 industry rebound as rising rates of the coronavirus prompt new restrictions and keep viewers away.

Britain's The Sunday Times said the London-listed company had written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Culture Minister Oliver Dowden to warn that the industry was becoming unviable.

It warned investors on September 24 that it might need to raise more money if its sites were forced to shut again, after it swung to a $1.64 billion first-half loss. Its shares have fallen 82 per cent this year.

Efforts to get audiences back into cinemas have proved disappointing. While bigger chains, such as AMC Entertainment, have reopened many locations, crowds have been thin. Small and medium-sized theatre companies have said they may not survive the impact of the pandemic.

Cineworld had said viewers returned to watch Tenet, the Christopher Nolan spy thriller that became a test case for the wider industry as the biggest release to open in cinemas since schedules were torn up in March.

But the postponement of Bond, plus delays to other big releases, such as superhero movie Black Widow and Steven Spielberg's West Side Story, give cinema lovers little reason to return.

Cineworld also began operating cinemas in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Israel from December 31, 2019.

Cineworld declined to comment.