Cineworld to Close All Regal Cinemas, U.K. Venues In Response to ‘No Time to Die’ Delay

Cineworld is shuttering all 543 of its Regal Cinema venues in the U.S. and 128 of its cinemas across the U.K. and Ireland this coming week, just days after James Bond film “No Time to Die” was pushed to April 2021.

Variety understands from sources that the chain will close all sites in both countries as early as this week, with staff notified ahead of Monday. In the U.K., Cineworld, which declined to comment, is understood to be writing to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden this weekend to explain that the exhibition sector is “unviable” due to studios delaying tentpoles as a result of anxious audiences steering clear of cinemas amid the global pandemic. The Cineworld closures will put up to 5,500 jobs at risk in the U.K.

Sources indicate a reopening date hasn’t yet been set, but cinemas could stay closed until 2021.

The swift move by the Mooky Greidinger-run chain, which was first reported by The Sunday Times, follows Friday’s bombshell Bond announcement. Though there had been speculation that “No Time to Die” could move from its Nov. 12 and Nov. 20 slots in the U.K. and North America, respectively, many in the industry, including several exhibition bosses, believed it would ultimately hold firm. Its new date of April 2, 2021, has come as a distressing shock to the exhibition sector, which is starved of vital blockbusters to bring audiences back to movie theaters.

It’s believed Cineworld staff had not yet been informed of the company’s decision to close as of Saturday evening U.K. time.

Cineworld Action Group, a collective of employees supported by entertainment union Bectu, tweeted on Saturday that “there has been no consultation with staff whatsoever.” News of the closures first emerged via a preview of The Sunday Times’ front page, posted late on Saturday night.

“No Time to Die,” starring Daniel Craig in his final stint as the agent formerly known as 007, will hit theaters a year later than initially planned. Universal, the studio behind the high-octane franchise, is distributing the Bond film internationally.

“MGM, Universal and Bond producers, Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, today announced the release of ‘No Time To Die,’ the 25th film in the James Bond series, will be delayed until 2 April in order to be seen by a worldwide theatrical audience,” the filmmakers said in a statement on Friday. “We understand the delay will be disappointing to our fans but we now look forward to sharing ‘No Time To Die’ next year.”

Numerous movies were shuffled around in the wake of “Tenet’s” lackluster U.S. box office performance in September. But industry experts suggested the release date for “No Time to Die” might not waiver because the Bond franchise relies heavily on international ticket sales — and overseas cinemas have seen a stronger return to theaters compared to domestic venues. Yet the decision to move the upcoming Bond entry into next year is not entirely surprising considering coronavirus cases in Europe have started to rise again and New York and Los Angeles, the two biggest U.S. markets, remain closed.

The delay is another major blow to theaters. Without “No Time to Die,” Pixar’s “Soul” on Nov. 20 is the next big movie slated for theatrical release. However, there are rumblings that Disney will move the animated adventure and possibly even put it on Disney Plus, the studio’s subscription streaming service. Two Warner Bros. titles, “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Dune,” are still set for December, though there’s a chance those could be postponed again as well.

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