CINEWORLD has said up to 45,000 employees will be affected worldwide as it confirmed plans to temporarily close its theatres in the UK and the US – the cinema giant’s two biggest markets.

More than 600 sites will be closed across the two countries from Thursday after the industry was rocked by plans by James Bond studios MGM and Universal to delay the release of the franchise’s latest film. Cineworld said it would close 127 Cineworld and Picturehouse sites in the UK, confirming reports over the weekend, and sending shares down by as much as 57% as markets opened in London.

Overall around 45,000 employees are affected in both countries, as 536 Regal theatres in the US will shut down because of the decision.

Chief executive Mooky Greidinger said: “This is not a decision we made lightly. We did everything in our power to support safe and sustainable re-openings.”

On Friday, the release of Bond film No Time To Die was delayed for the second time because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The film was meant to hit cinemas next month, but fans will now have to wait until April 2 next year before seeing Daniel Craig’s final outing in the role.

The movie joins other potential hits which have been delayed by the pandemic. Speaking to Sky News, Greidinger said: “Many significant movies have moved. From a liquidity point of view, we are bleeding much bigger amounts when we are open than when we are closed.

“Without these new releases, Cineworld cannot provide customers in both the US and the UK, our primary markets, with the breadth of strong commercial films necessary for them to consider coming back against the backdrop of Covid-19.”

Cineworld and Picturehouse locations closing in Scotland are: Aberdeen – Queens Links, Union Square; Dundee – Camperdown Leisure Park; Edinburgh – Fountain Park, Cameo Picturehouse; Falkirk – Central Retail Park; and Glasgow – IMAX at Glasgow Science Centre, Parkhead, Renfrew Street and Silverburn.