Cinemas in England will close their doors once again on Thursday (November 5) as the country enters a second national lockdown to combat rising coronavirus cases. Phil Clapp, chief executive of the UK Cinema Association, says the government must announce additional funding for venues beyond the furlough job retention scheme if they are to weather this period of closures.
“[This] will be a further blow to the UK sector,” he said in a statement. “While we welcome the extension of the furlough scheme, all cinemas will require additional funding support if they are to recover from this, the latest of a series of set-backs.”
Clapp said cinemas had “worked extremely hard to provide a safe and enjoyable experience for their audiences” and had been already battling with a shifting film slate that had seen numerous big-ticket releases such as Bond pic No Time To Die push into 2021 and beyond. Cinemas in Wales and Northern Ireland are also closed as those countries impose similar temporary lockdowns, while the majority of venues in Scotland have re-shut too.
In response to the difficulties, the UK’s largest chain Cineworld had already re-closed its venues, citing concerns with the slate. The country’s second biggest circuit, Odeon, also reduced its operating hours at a portion of its venues.
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Cineworld employees this weekend called to be reinstated on the furlough scheme. “With the announcement that furlough has been extended in light of the English lockdown, we call on @cineworld to do the right thing and place us back on the job retention scheme, with pay backdated to October 16 when the company placed the majority of us on unpaid leave,” they wrote on Twitter.
On the independent side, Clapp noted the welcome announcement of the BFI-administered £30M ($39M) Culture Recovery Fund, but said venues that had applied “need confirmation of their awards now” as they ready themselves to wait out a tricky period of inactivity that will last at least four weeks.
“At the same time, we renew our call for government to support those larger cinema companies who are not eligible for the above funding, but are major employers in the sector, as well as making a hugely valuable contribution to their local communities,” he added.
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