Experts fear firm’s mothballing of UK cinemas will spark a grim chain reaction for surrounding hospitality trade
The nationwide closure of Cineworld’s theatres was the disaster movie nobody working in the UK’s battered leisure industry wanted to see.
The mothballing of the country’s largest cinema operator not only spells hardship for its 5,500 staff but has set off a chain reaction that threatens the livelihoods of many more working in the neighbouring restaurants that rely on the multiplex trade.
On Friday, the billboards outside the 14-screen Cineworld in Feltham, west London, were still advertising Tenet and Bill & Ted Face the Music, but the next screening will be months, rather than hours, away. At the start of 2020 the future was bright for the Leisure West park. The owner was ready to refurbish and install a “superscreen” to give an extra wow factor to the Bollywood films that draw huge crowds to the venue, making it one of Cineworld’s top five performers.
With a Tenpin bowling alley and family friendly restaurants such as Pizza Hut, Burger King and Frankie & Benny’s, the leisure complex, like 124 others around the country, is in normal times a destination for birthday parties, date nights and family outings. But with cinemas closed will people still come? Two out of every five Cineworld cinemas are sited on leisure parks.
Mark Jason William, a Cineworld regular, described the temporary loss of his local cinema as “gutting”. “We come here, then go to Burger King to make a night of it.”
But the closure does more than curtail social lives. It is a blow to a London borough already hard hit by the travails of Heathrow airport, a major local employer.
The crisis in the aviation sector has already put more than 40,000 jobs at risk in the borough of Hounslow, with a recent report forecasting the economy will contract by 11% this year.
The restaurants and entertainment brands that populate the Feltham leisure complex are typical of other parts of the country and have already been battered by the Covid-19 crisis…