British cinema chain Cineworld announced Monday that is temporarily shutting cinemas in Britain and the United States, as coronavirus pandemic delays major new films like the latest James Bond spy blockbuster.
The company said in a statement that it will suspend its 127 Cineworld and Picturehouse theatres in Britain from Thursday, and 536 Regal theatres in the US.
The news confirmed weekend media speculation over the temporary closures at the group, which employs around 45,000 staff in its two main markets.
"In response to an increasingly challenging theatrical landscape and sustained key market closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Cineworld confirms that it will be temporarily suspending operations" in the two countries, it said in a statement.
"As major US markets, mainly New York, remained closed and without guidance on reopening timing, studios have been reluctant to release their pipeline of new films.
"In turn, without these new releases, Cineworld cannot provide customers in both the US and the UK -- the company's primary markets -- with the breadth of strong commercial films necessary for them to consider coming back to theatres against the backdrop of Covid-19."
The announcement comes just days after the makers of the new James Bond movie -- which has already had its release date pushed back once due to the pandemic -- said it would not now be released until April 2021.
"No Time to Die", the 25th instalment of the fictional British spy saga, sees Bond drawn out of retirement in Jamaica and is expected to be actor Daniel Craig's last outing as 007.
"This is not a decision we made lightly," Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger added regarding the closures in Monday's statement.
"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."