Since Cineworld’s decision to purchase Picture House in December of 2012, they have enjoyed a large portion of the independent giant’s profit. Recently however, it has announced that they will be temporarily closing Duke of York’s, the oldest cinema in the country, established in 1910. Located in Brighton (a place close to heart), Duke of York’s closed its doors on Friday 9th October.
The incredibly irksome ongoing pandemic has wrecked inconceivable damage upon the film industry which is in dire need of repair. We can only hope that our beloved Hyde Park Picture House does suffer tremendously as a result of the joint Cineworld-Picture House decision.
After some light research, I learnt that Cineworld is the world’s second largest cinema chain, employing “37,000 people globally before the pandemic, with 5,500 in the UK”. It recently announced that it is considering temporarily closing all of its UK and US cinemas although in a recent statement they declared “a final decision has not yet been reached.” “Once a decision has been made we will update all staff and customers as soon as we can.”
This decision comes at a crucial point for cinema workers: at the end of the government’s furlough scheme. The replacement proposal arrives in November, called the “Job Support Scheme”, which will only support those in “viable” employment and working reduced hours.
Furthermore, this resolution follows many cinemas experiencing curtailment, especially after major studios behind the latest blockbusters had to revisit postponement. James Bond studios MGM and Universal decided to push back the latest Bond flick again, placing additional strain on the dependably lucrative industry. Cinema giant Disney has also announced they will delay all Star Wars features until at least 2022, as well as some of their biggest planned projects – Avatar being amongst them.
Head of the UK Cinema Association, Phil Clapp has published the sad statement: “Although cinemas opened in July and have been able to deliver a safe and enjoyable experience, without major new titles then we understand we aren’t able to get as many people out of the home as we’d like.”
The ongoing popularity of streaming was evident during the first lockdown, as I explored previously with this paper, with Netflix’s Extraction breaking broadcast records back in May. As we transition in Leeds from Hyde Park to the fast-approaching ‘Herd Park’, many isolating students (myself included) are not able to get outside and have turned toward online platforms for comfort.
On a more macro-scale, the Labour Party have criticised the Conservatives for their lack of cinema financial aid, with Shadow Secretary of State for Digital Culture Media, Jo Stevens arguing the Tories are “are consigning thousands of workers to the scrap heap.” Which they are. Despite this, the Work and Pensions Secretary, Therese Coffey has said that firms have received “a lot of support” since the news was announced on 5th October.
This criticism comes days after multiple creatives including Tim Burgess in an article for the Guardian, descended on Rishi Sunak, (Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer)’s parade – who has infamously pointed artists towards the simple and easy act of re-training.
While mainstream cinemas have been submerged in Covid closures, independent cinemas may have, (subject to application), a ladder to clamber out of the Covid swamp. The BFI (British Film Institute) is offering a “Culture Recovery Fund for Independent Cinemas”. This will provide select cinemas with “one off Safety grants to help cinemas make their venues safe for staff and audiences and Business Sustainability grants to underpin ongoing organisational viability.” Despite this, the BFI does not expect every cinema’s application to be “successful”. This commitment does not provide the security so desperately needed for those workers first-hand affected by the cessation of chain cinema. It also does not cover “other exhibitors such as film festivals or touring providers.”
Ultimately, mainstream cinema could be still be thrown a lifeline. Whether the Tories decide to offer more financial aid is up to them. All that we can do is pressure them to act and petitions can be accessed here and here. With the new Batman, Bond and more being released into deeply uncertain territory in 2021, will it be too late for both cinema and Gotham City? We will have to wait and see.
Any purchase of Hyde Park Picture House merchandise will go into the vital works needed to keep the cinema that we all love afloat. You can purchase theirs, as well as a number of important Leeds Heritage Theatres venues’ merchandise here.
Image credit: [BBC]