The UK cinema industry has called on the government to introduce a rent relief scheme to give operators more breathing space to recover from the effects of the Covid-19 lockdown.
Phil Clapp, head of the UK Cinema Association, which represents cinema operators in the UK, welcomed the news this week that the government intends to allow some hospitality businesses – including cinemas – to open from 4 July. However, he added that some may not be able to reopen safely until later in the year and that operators needed financial protection to help them weather the resulting financial storm.
“There may be some sites where the physical layout doesn’t allow for the type of social distancing that would be required in order for them to operate safely, and for those sites it’s unfortunate, but I think its a necessity that they will accept. They will need to open later on, once the expectations and the restrictions on society have started to relax a little,” said Clapp.
He added that it would take a “very long time” before the income that would have been made in the spring and summer months, which is the most important time of the year for the cinema industry, could be recovered.
He urged that the government must step in to aid operators by either setting up a rent relief scheme or a semi-statutory rent holiday.
“Either of those would be hugely valuable for our sector as there’s a real danger otherwise that the moratorium the government announced [the three month ban on statutory action] only kicks the can down the road,” said Clapp.
“It will take a period of several months, even to the end of the year, before the business starts to approach anything like it would have pre-lockdown. That [nine-month] timeout would give time to defray those costs over a much longer period.”
Clapp said that during the lockdown some landlords had shown “no flexibility at all for rent and service charges” while premises were closed. “Some landlords have agreed to move to monthly rent payments but to be honest, when you have no cash coming in at all, that hasn’t done anything,” he added.
Many of the UK’s leading cinema chains have already started drawing up reopening plans. Earlier this week, Vue, which operates 91 cinema sites across the UK and has more than 870 screens, unveiled plans to reopen its cinemas using physical distancing measures as soon as the government gives the green light. The measures include staggering screening times, enhanced cleaning and promoting online bookings to allow people to safely sit together…