Cineworld goes into administration but screens stay open

Cineworld is to file for administration, slashing its $5bn debt while keeping cinemas open. Experts predict a leaner post-restructuring operation amid streaming competition.

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Cineworld, the world’s second-largest cinema chain, has said its screens will remain open despite its plans to file for administration.

Cineworld’s debts spiralled during the Covid pandemic when many cinemas were forced to close. It has announced plans to slash its $5bn (£3.9bn) debt.

The American firm, which owns the Picturehouse chain in the UK, said it was still business as usual for its cinemas.

The big films currently showing in the UK include Spiderman: Across the Spider-Verse and The Little Mermaid.

“Cineworld continues to operate its global business and cinemas as usual without interruption, and this will not be affected by the entry of Cineworld Group plc into administration,” it said.

The Little Mermaid review

(L-R): Scuttle (voiced by Awkwafina), Flounder (voiced by Jacob Tremblay), and Halle Bailey as Ariel in Disney’s live-action THE LITTLE MERMAID. Photo courtesy of Disney. © 2023 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

“The group and its brands worldwide – including Regal, Cinema City, Picturehouse and Planet – are continuing to welcome customers to cinemas as usual.”

Cineworld has more than 28,000 staff across 751 sites globally, with 128 locations in the UK and Ireland.

After filing for bankruptcy protection in the US, it now hopes to emerge from this next month, following the restructuring of its finances.

It will apply for administration in July, which will see shares in the firm suspended and existing shareholders wiped out.

Restructuring the company’s finances will cut its debts by about $4.5bn. A sale of rights in the business has raised $800m, and it will also have access to a further $1.46bn in funds if required.

As well as the hit to trading during the pandemic, cinemas face tough competition from streaming services.

Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets at Hargreaves Lansdown, said she expected Cineworld to emerge from its restructuring as “a dramatically slimmed down player in the movie world”.

She noted that Regal movie theatres began closing in the US earlier this year, adding that it seemed unlikely that its UK cinemas would “escape restructure indefinitely”.

“Given the shakeup of the movie industry and the might of the streaming giants, ticket sales will never fully recover to the heady days of the past, so focusing on the improving experience for die-hard movie fans in a smaller number of more theatres is likely to the focus, to boost margins and increase ancillary spend,” she said.

In 2019, the last full year before the pandemic hit, Cineworld reported sales of $4.4bn.

While cinema audiences have been returning, Cineworld said last year that it expected admissions in both 2023 and 2024 to remain below pre-pandemic levels.

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