Cineworld tells customers 'we're still open for business' amid reports it is preparing to file for bankruptcy

Cinema bosses have reassured customers they are still open for business after reports the Cineworld chain is preparing to file for bankruptcy

Shares in the company plummeted by two thirds after the Wall Street Journal reported the world’s second biggest cinema business has hired lawyers from Kirkland & Ellis and consultants from AlixPartners to advise the bankruptcy process.

It cast uncertainty over the future of thousands of workers at its 127 UK cinemas, including branches in Boldon and Dalton Park.

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Cineworld declined to comment to reporters on Friday, but released a statement on social media on Saturday night stressing it was “business as usual”.

A Cineworld cinemas sign.

It read: “All of our Cineworld cinemas are open for business as usual, and we continue to welcome Cineworld Unlimited members and all of our customers, across the UK and Ireland.

“We remain committed to being the Best Place to Watch a Movie.”

At the height of the pandemic, Cineworld temporarily shut its UK cinemas and placed 5,500 workers on furlough.

The company employs around 28,000 workers globally, with operations in 10 countries.

Philippa Childs, head of entertainment and media union Bectu, said of the reports: “The UK’s cinema industry suffered an incredible blow due to Covid-19 and this latest news will be very unsettling for cinema workers.

“We will do everything we can to support our members during this challenging time and will be looking to Cineworld to mitigate the impact of any bankruptcy arrangements on its employees.”

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The reports came just days after Cineworld said it is assessing options to shore up its finances after it blamed a “limited” film slate for weak audience numbers in recent months.

The company, which also owns the Picturehouse chain in the UK and Regal Cinemas in the US, had pinned its hopes on releases such as Top Gun: Maverick, The Batman and Thor: Love And Thunder to aid its recovery from the heavy impact of the pandemic.

However, it told the London Stock Exchange on Wednesday: “Despite a gradual recovery of demand since reopening in April 2021, recent admission levels have been below expectations.

“These lower levels of admissions are due to a limited film slate that is anticipated to continue until November 2022 and are expected to negatively impact trading and the group’s liquidity position in the near term.”

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The business, which was saddled with £4 billion of debt at the end of the last financial year, said it was considering restructuring its balance sheet to protect its future.