Both Odeon and Cineworld have announced that all of their cinemas in the UK and Ireland, including Picturehouse venues, will be closed until further notice. The move to shutter the venues is in response to the growing coronavirus pandemic. The UK has confirmed 1,543 cases of the virus so far, and 55 people have died. In Ireland, 223 cases have emerged, with 2 deaths officially noted.
“Following Government guidelines Odeon cinemas are closed until further notice,” Odeon confirmed today. “If you have pre-booked tickets online these will be refunded automatically.”
On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson handed down new government advice that cinemas and pubs, along with theatres, “should no longer be visited” and said “the proprietors of those venues are taking the logical steps that you would imagine, you are seeing the change happen already.”
We are now witnessing the impact of these words on the Odeon and Cineworld chains, however, the initial confusion and anger from those expecting a formal order to close down more public venues was swift, as Johnson’s update was seemingly worded to be merely a suggestion at this stage.
“As for enforcement, we have the powers if necessary but I don’t believe it will be necessary to use those powers,” Johnson remarked, saying that mass gatherings were just something “we are now moving emphatically away from.”
Odeon currently operates 120 venues in the UK and Ireland, totalling 950 screens. It’s owned by US company AMC, which has also closed its cinemas stateside in an effort to reduce the spread of coronavirus amongst the population there. Cineworld operates 102 cinemas and runs more than 1,030 screens in the UK.
“At Cineworld and Picturehouse, we are committed to providing safe and healthy environments for our employees and guests and have therefore made the difficult decision to close our cinemas in UK and Ireland until further notice,” Cineworld Group CEO Mooky Greidinger said in a statement. “We deeply value our cinema-loving customers and have no doubt we will be serving everyone again as soon as possible with a full slate of Hollywood blockbusters and the best of independent films and content.”
Deadline reveals that “even before the closures, UK box office numbers were dropping, with takings this weekend close to 50% down on the previous period” so it’s not surprising to hear news of Odeon and Cineworld operations grinding to a halt.
Studios are now mulling the benefits of choosing to direct cinema-bound movies straight to streaming, with Universal announcing that recent big releases like The Invisible Man, The Hunt and Emma would be on-demand asap over in the US, and Disney under pressure to decide what to do with its next Marvel blockbuster, Black Widow.
More news as it breaks.