Cineworld, the largest cinema chain in the UK, has announced it will shutter all its screens in the UK and the US after the release of the latest James Bond film was delayed again.

The cinema chain, which has 128 theatres in the UK and Ireland and 536 Regal theatres in the US, confirmed it would suspend its operations from Thursday, which will put 45,000 jobs at risk, with 5,500 of those in the UK.

Cineworld did not give a date for reopening its cinemas, but chief executive Mooky Greidinger said the operator did “everything in our power to support safe and sustainable reopenings in all of our markets.”

The majority of the staff will be asked to take redundancy, with possible plans to rejoin the cinema chain again once theatres reopen, which will likely be next year.

In a statement released Monday, the group said: “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 at all of its 536 Regal theatres in the U.S. and its 127 Cineworld and Picturehouse theatres in the UK from Thursday, 8 October 2020.”

The keenly anticipated James Bond film ‘No Time To Die’ has now been pushed back to April 2, 2021, after it was due in cinemas in April this year, but was then postponed until November because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The firm 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.

“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 closure decision follows a weak box office performance for Tenet and leaves cinemas with almost no big films until late December, when Warner Bros’ Dune and Wonder Woman 1984 are due to be released.

The announcement led to the company’s shares falling by 57 per cent.

Greidinger added: “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.”

Phil Clapp, chief executive of the UK Cinema Association, said, according to The Sunday Times: “The announcement is probably the most serious blow to UK cinema operators of a number of similar announcements over the past few weeks and will undoubtedly cause a significant number of cinemas to close again.”

Image: Telfordman / Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International / Edited for size