Mooky Greidinger, Cineworld Group CEO, has penned an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging him to save cinemas in a bid to “avert job losses and a cultural blackout”.
The letter, which urges Conservative Party leader Johnson to reinstate the coronavirus furlough program, arrives after Cineworld and Picturehouse cinemas were forced to temporarily close as the health crisis continues to wreak havoc within the film industry.
Greidinger, in his message to Johns, pleads for “support to help save the UK’s cinema industry, to avert a generation of adults and children suffering a cultural blackout and to help keep the credits rolling on a multi-billion-pound industry.”
With cinemas currently closed amid a major second spike in COVID-19 cases and repeated delays in new movie releases, Gredinger explained that decision to close his cinemas is “likely to lead to the jobs of 5,500 Cineworld employees being significantly affected and many thousands more on contract work — cleaners, security guards, technicians — also at risk.”
He added: “Without urgent action, there is a significant challenge to the viability of our industry… This in turn will decimate broader UK film production, which is one of this country’s greatest cultural exports.”
See the full letter, below.
Save cinemas to avert job losses and a cultural blackout
“Dear Prime Minister,
“I am writing to you as the CEO of Cineworld Group, the second largest cinema company in the world and the largest in the UK, asking for your government’s support to help save the UK’s cinema industry, to avert a generation of adults and children suffering a cultural blackout and to help keep the credits rolling on a multi-billion-pound industry that is the envy of the world.
“I am the third generation of my family involved in the cinema industry, as my grandfather opened our first cinema in Haifa Israel in 1930. He would have been surprised to hear on our 90th anniversary that his grandchildren are now running almost 10,000 screens across 10 countries, although he certainly could not have imagined that a global pandemic would force us to close down many of these, including 127 sites in the UK.
“As you know, we have been forced to make a difficult announcement this week, which is likely to lead to the jobs of 5,500 Cineworld employees being significantly affected and many thousands more on contract work — cleaners, security guards, technicians — also at risk.
“While we were heartened to hear your warm words of support, encouraging people to visit their local cinema, more action is needed to save this nation’s cinemas. As we believe and one national newspaper has commented today, the current support we as an industry are receiving is “insufficient.”
“Without urgent action, there is a significant challenge to the viability of our industry, which employs tens of thousands of people, caters for consumers and provides opportunities for people across the UK.
“This in turn will decimate broader UK film production, which is one of this country’s greatest cultural exports. In 2019, ahead of COVID in what was a record year for global box offices, film production in the UK generated a total spend of £1.95bn, a 17% increase on the prior year’s £1.84bn and the second highest figure since these statistics were first recorded.
“According to the most-timely statistics, the UK’s cinema and film industry generates significant value for the economy, with its direct contribution to GDP at £6.1bn.
“Your furlough scheme has been vital to our survival in the depths of the pandemic, but now this policy is changing, whilst our situation is only worsening. We no longer have any significant movies to show this year that would appeal to large audiences and would at least help to fill our cinemas in spite of the social distancing restrictions already put in place. We support these measures, but they have been costly and time consuming to implement. They have included a full safety plan that covers all aspects of operation and we have accounted for social distancing, special sanitising, mandatory mask policies and more.
“But at the same time, we have a viable long-term business located right across the UK. Whilst the immediate future is uncertain, one thing we know for sure is people will always turn to the cinema for fun, escapism and an affordable experience.
“That is why we hope you can engage with us on a three-point plan to save cinema in the UK, all of which I am willing to discuss in a lot more detail with the relevant Ministers, officials and their teams:
“1. A significant and direct cash injection for the UK operators – big, small and independent – apportioned by screen revenue, in line with similar support schemes provided to other institutions.
“2. Support for our industry’s commercial lease agreements for the coming 12 months. There is one clear solution evident in other European markets, whereby cinema operators continue to pay turnover based rent, but the balance of rent is partly foregone by the landlord and partly supported by the government. And while we continue to have constructive discussions with many landlords, we also require bespoke protections from those looking to repossess parts of our estate at a time of financial difficulty.
“3. Lastly, we call for the return of the furlough scheme that was in place from April to July for embattled industries such as ours. While we understand the logic behind the updated scheme, it simply cannot work for us without any revenues, as we are unable to provide staff with a third of their normal hours, let alone contribute directly to the payment of their wages.
“We hope you grasp the chance to give hundreds of British cinemas a Hollywood ending, one similar to that expected by millions of people from the new James Bond movie scheduled for release next month, but now delayed once again until April next year.
“As that film is set to portray, now is ‘No Time To Die.’ The same very much applies to our industry.
“Chief Executive of Cineworld Group plc.”