Cineworld and the owner of Duke of York could file for bankruptcy within weeks

THE owner of several cinemas across Sussex is said to be preparing to file for bankruptcy.

Cineworld’s shares have plummeted amid growing concerns the company will file for bankruptcy “within weeks”.

The chain has cinemas in Brighton, Crawley, Chichester and Eastbourne. It also owns Picturehouse cinemas which operate the Duke of York’s on Preston Road, Brighton and its younger sister, the Duke’s at Komedia on Gardner Street. What the future holds for them is unclear.

On Friday, shares of Cineworld Group PLC fell two-thirds in minutes after the Wall Street Journal reported it hired lawyers from Kirkland and Ellis and advisors from AlixPartners to advise on the bankruptcy proceedings.

The Argus: Cineworld at Brighton MarinaCineworld at Brighton Marina

Cineworld declined to comment on Friday when the news broke, but has since said “all cinemas are open” on social media.

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

“We remain committed to being the best place to see a movie.”

The reports raise uncertainty about the future of thousands of workers at Britain’s 127 cinemas.

Cineworld employs around 28,000 people worldwide and operates in ten countries.

The Argus: The Duke of York's picturehouse on Preston RoadDuke of York’s Picturehouse on Preston Road

Philippa Childs, leader of entertainment and media union Bectu, said: “This is very worrying news, not least for the UK workforce at Cineworld and Picturehouse, who have already endured a turbulent period during the pandemic.

“The UK cinema industry has suffered an incredible blow due to Covid-19 and this latest news will be very worrying for cinema workers.

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

It came two days after Cineworld said it was reviewing options to shore up its finances after blaming a “limited” film slate for weak viewership in recent months.

The company, which also owns Regal Cinemas in the US, had pinned its hopes on releases like Top Gun: Maverick, The Batman and Thor: Love And Thunder to recover from the severe impact of the pandemic.

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

“These lower admissions are due to a limited film slate which is expected to last through November 2022 and is expected to negatively impact the Group’s trading and cash position in the near term.”

The company, which was burdened with $4.8 billion (£4 billion) in debt at the end of last fiscal year, said it was considering restructuring its balance sheet to secure its future.

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

The Duke of York’s Picturehouse has been contacted for comment. Cineworld and the owner of Duke of York could file for bankruptcy within weeks

Fry Electronics Team

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