The UK’s exhibition sector effectively shut down today, with all cinema chains closing their doors to the public.
The move follows government advice last night that people should not visit public venues including theaters and pubs as the coronavirus pandemic spreads. The suggestion was a guideline rather than a legally-enforceable action, but businesses have taken it seriously.
Multiplex chains Odeon, Cineworld, Vue and Showcase all shut their cinemas today, and have now been followed by the primary indie venues Curzon and Everyman (as well as Picturehouse, which is owned by Cineworld and so followed its parent’s mandate).
“At Curzon, the health and safety of our staff and customers is paramount and we have therefore made the difficult decision to close all our cinemas from the end of play tomorrow until further notice,” Curzon, which was bought by Cohen Media Group earlier this year, said in a statement.
Curzon also distributes films and has decided to launch its upcoming in-house titles online, on its Curzon Home Video PVOD platform, sticking to the original planned release dates. This includes Hirokazu Koreeda’s The Truth, starring Juliette Binoche and Catherine Deneuve, this Friday, which will now go directly on the streaming service. The exhibitor, which previously would have put its own films day-and-date in cinemas and online, said that “theatrical screenings will follow as and when possible”.
The policy could well be utilized more widely in the coming weeks as the world continues to lockdown over coronavirus. Today, UK distributor Modern Films said that it would release its title A Perfect Candidate online on March 27, and try to do theatrical screenings at a later date.
“We are working with a number of third party distributors to provide an outlet for their new and current film releases and we are also launching a number of exciting initiatives to keep film fans entertained during the lockdown,” added Curzon.
Everyman also released a statement today around the closures: “We are sorry to let you know that following the government’s advice in the wake of coronavirus, our venues will be closed until further notice. We want everyone to be safe and healthy, therefore we believe that temporary closure is necessary.”
Key UK indie cinemas also shuttered today, including the Bristol Watershed and London’s BFI Southbank. The vast majority of the country’s theaters are now closed. In a briefing today, the government stated that it would provide relief for businesses in the leisure sector that are struggling with the disruption from coronavirus.