Our local Cineworld closed down yesterday, maybe to reopen in the Spring, maybe never again.
Of all the Covid closures of recent months, I found this one of the saddest. I’d not long realised that the occasional trip to the cinema was back on the agenda again, they’ve been safely open now since July.
Last week I’d looked online to see what films were on and planned to walk into town one of these cold winter afternoons and watch one of the latest releases. I had my eye on the Christopher Nolan directed Tenet featuring Robert Pattinson, Michael Caine and Kenneth Brannagh.
I’d started to go to the cinema just before the pandemic hit and saw the Oscar-winning Korean film Parasite back in early March.
On that occasion I’d gone on my own – which I was quite happy with – but I’d also talked vaguely about watching a movie with the kids from time to time.
My local Cineworld opened just five years ago to great fanfare – a very welcome return of cinema to the town after 22 years.
It was the anchor ‘tenant’ of a new £80 million regeneration programme that was aiming to breathe new life into one of middle England’s many dying town centres. Now it’s gone maybe never to return.
Cineworld’s decision was prompted by delays in the release of big-budget films – including James Bond’s No Time To Die – and will result in the closure of 127 cinemas and the loss of 5,500 jobs.
5,500 jobs – what a huge number – many will be the first jobs of school leavers, their introduction to the world of work or the vital top-up incomes to families that help make life worth living.
It is hoped the cinemas will be able to reopen next year – with staff being asked to accept redundancy in the hope of rejoining the company when theatres open again – but no one can be sure this will happen.
In September the firm reported a $1.6bn (£1.3bn) loss for the six months to June as its cinemas had to close because of coronavirus lockdowns.
The head of the UK Cinema Association said he feared the Cineworld closure was “indicative of challenges faced by the entire UK cinema industry at the moment”.
Phil Clapp said: “Although cinemas opened in July and have been able to deliver a safe and enjoyable experience, without major new titles then we understand we aren’t able to get as many people out of the home as we’d like.”
Our Cineworld’s closure will no doubt have a big impact on the remaining restaurants and bars that opened alongside it hoping to trade off the footfall it will bring. I’m wondering whether now is the time to die for my town centre and the dozens of others affected by similar closures.