The cinema chain, Cineworld, has confirmed it will temporarily close its UK cinemas from this Thursday (8 October).
Bedford’s Cineworld, at Aspects Leisure Park, will close indefinitely from Thursday.
A former member of staff told the Bedford Independent that when news broke in the Sunday Times yesterday, Cineworld had not notified staff of the situation.
Although cinemas were permitted to reopen in July, the industry has been hit by delays to big-budget blockbusters including the new James Bond movie.
The launch of No Time To Die, the 25th installment of the James Bond franchise, has been postponed twice during the coronavirus pandemic. On Friday (2 October) it was announced that it is now due for release in April 2021.
This has been seen as the nail in the coffin for the cinema industry, and the closure of Cineworld is yet another dormant property at the Aspects site.
The closure of all 127 UK Cineworld sites will see 5,500 jobs at risk and staff are being asked to take redundancy in the hope they will rejoin the company when theatres reopen again.
The entertainment industry has been hit particularly hard by the global pandemic, with live music, theatre shows, festivals and events all cancelled or postponed.
This summer, Bedford should have been celebrating the Kite and Motoring Festival, River Festival, Bedford Park Concerts and Bedfringe as well as dozens of shows at The Place and Quarry theatres, Bedford Corn Exchange and Esquires.
Events may have been rescheduled for 2021, but the future of venues hangs in the balance without any support from the government.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said it was supporting cinemas through a VAT cut on tickets and concessions, business rates holiday and bounce-back loans.
“We urge the British public to support their local cinema and save jobs by visiting and enjoying a film in accordance with the [Covid-19] guidance.”
In a statement, Cineworld’s chief executive, Mooky Greidinger, said, “This is not a decision we made lightly, and we did everything in our power to support safe and sustainable reopenings in all of our markets – including meeting, and often exceeding, local health and safety guidelines in our theatres and working constructively with regulators and industry bodies to restore public confidence in our industry.
“Cineworld will continue to monitor the situation closely and will communicate any future plans to resume operations in these markets at the appropriate time, when key markets have more concrete guidance on their reopening status and, in turn, studios are able to bring their pipeline of major releases back to the big screen.”
“It’s a tragedy for the people who work at Bedford’s Cineworld,” said a former employee of Cineworld.
“I know people with 20 and 30 years experience who are now facing redundancy and no prospect of the cinema reopening.
“It’s too early to tell what the wider implications will be for the industry, and if cinema can ever recover in a post-covid world.
“My heart goes out to everyone affected.”