UK cinema chain Curzon is to close its theatres following government advice over the spread of coronavirus and direct audiences to digital platform Curzon Home Cinema.
The company operates 13 cinemas around the country, which will be closed from Thursday (March 19) and comes the day after UK prime minister Boris Johnson advised people to avoid theatres and pubs, while stopping short of forcing venues to close.
In a statement, Curzon CEO Philip Knatchbull said: “At Curzon, the health and safety of our staff and customers is paramount and we have therefore made the difficult decision to close all our cinemas from the end of play tomorrow until further notice.”
The company is instead urging audiences to watch films via its digital platform, Curzon Home Cinema, which will include the launch of “exciting initiatives” during this period of social distancing.
“During this incredibly challenging period, we would ask our customers to continue to support us through the Curzon Home Cinema platform,” said Knatchbull. “We are working with a number of third-party distributors to provide an outlet for their new and current film releases and we are also launching a number of exciting initiatives to keep film fans entertained during the lockdown.”
Modern Films announced today that it has partnered with Curzon on an early digital release of Haifaa Al Mansour’s The Perfect Candidate as its original theatrical release on March 27 will not be possible.
Knatchbull added that Curzon’s current distribution slate will retain their published release dates via Curzon Home Cinema and that “theatrical screenings will follow as and when possible.”
These include Hirokazu Koreeda’s The Truth, starring Juliette Binoche and Catherine Deneuve, which will launch this Friday (March 20) on Curzon Home Cinema as planned.
New additions include Levan Akin’s romantic drama And Then We Danced, which is available from today; and Oliver Laxe’s Fire Will Come and J-P Valkeapää’s Dogs Don’t Wear Pants from Friday. Other upcoming releases include Lorcan Finnegan’s Vivarium, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots, from March 27; and Elia Suleiman’s Cannes award-winning comedy It Must Be Heaven from April 3.
As a distributor, Curzon scored a major win this year with Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite, which now holds the record for the highest-grossing non-English language film of all time in the UK, taking close to £12m ($14.5m) at the box office to date.
Conversely, the UK box office has already felt the impact of COVID-19 and advice over “social distancing”. The takings for the top five titles over the weekend was £3.31m – down close to 50% on the £6.47m from the previous weekend.
With major chains announcing closures, UK Cinema Association CEO Phil Clapp has said his focus is now on helping people who work in the exhibition sector. “Mindful of the latest scientific advice from the government, the coming days will see the closure of most UK cinema sites,” said Clapp.
”The priority now is to ensure that the thousands who work in the sector, many of them young people, are helped during what will be an exceptionally challenging period for them, and that cinema venues across the country are supported to overcome what for many will represent an unprecedented challenge to their existence.”
He reiterated his organisation’s priority will be “ensuring that that support is put in place”.