Cineworld has today confirmed plans to temporarily close 127 sites across the UK, affecting up to 45,000 employees.
The cinema chain will make closures after big studios started to delay their major film releases to wait for better audiences.
Cineworld said up to 45,000 employees will be affected by theatre closures 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 sending shares down by as much as 57% as markets opened in London.
It is thought up to 5,500 jobs are at risk in the UK.
Cineworld today confirmed it was considering the temporary closure of its UK cinemas, as well as its US cinemas, but that 'a final decision has not yet been reached'
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Chief executive Mooky Greidinger said: 'This is not a decision we made lightly, and we did everything in our power to support safe and sustainable reopenings in all of our markets.'
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 in November, 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 such as Black Widow and Wonder Woman: 1984, which have been delayed by the pandemic.
But staff took to Twitter overnight to slam the company for not telling employees about the plans before they were reported.
One Twitter user said: 'This is going out to all my fellow Cineworld colleagues up and down the country, wishing you the best in these early hours with the news of the closures.
'Been with Cineworld for 12 years, to find out I've not got a job via Twitter; once again; is damn appalling.'
Another, whose husband works for Cineworld, said: 'Just checking Twitter before bed ... oh looks like we just found out via Twitter that my husbands place of work is closing, thanks for telling your employees Cineworld, finding out on Twitter as usual.
'I guess we'll wait to hear from them at some point in the future.'
A group on Twitter named the Cineworld Action Group also took to the social media site to comment on the reports.
A Cineworld staff member, who did not want to be named, said they felt 'betrayed'.
The employee said: 'None of us have been told a single thing yet, so me and my work colleagues are sort of in panic mode right now, wondering what's going to happen to our jobs, especially this close to Christmas.'
Alongside the closure plans, bosses of Cineworld Group PLC are reportedly preparing to write to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and culture minister Oliver Dowden to say the industry has become 'unviable'.
Cineworld said today: 'As major US markets, mainly New York, remained closed and without guidance on reopening timing, studios have been reluctant to release their pipeline of new films.
'In turn, without these new releases, Cineworld cannot provide customers in both the US and the UK - the company's primary markets - with the breadth of strong commercial films necessary for them to consider coming back to theatres against the backdrop of Covid-19.'
Alongside the closure plans, bosses of Cineworld Group PLC are reportedly preparing to write to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and culture minister Oliver Dowden to say the industry has become 'unviable'
The Fast And The Furious series will not be seeing the checkered flag anytime soon.
The release of the highly-anticipated sequel F9 has been delayed again as it is now set for release on May 28, 2021 during Memorial Day weekend it was announced by Universal on Friday.
Back in March it was reported that the film was delayed to April 3 2021 according to The Hollywood Reporter.
However the most recent change was made hours after James Bond film No Time to Die delayed its release from November to April 2, 2021.
Universal is distributing the film internationally.
The Fast and Furious movies are always big earners at the domestic and international box office and the absence of F9 will impact the 2020 box office in a major way. The past two films have made over $1 billion.
Just a month earlier the full trailer had been unveiled.
Last week, the release of the highly-anticipated Fast and Furious sequel F9 was also delayed again, while Disney announced last month that its live-action version of Mulan instead debut on its streaming service Disney Plus instead of a theatrical release.
The new Fast and Furious meanwhile is set for release on May 28, 2021, it was announced by Universal yesterday.
Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said firms had received 'a lot of support' after the news broke on Monday.sonos sonos One (Gen 2) - Voice Controlled Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa Built-in - Black read more
Asked if the Government will help the chain, she told Sky News: 'One of the things Cineworld has cited is that cinemagoers want to be able to see new films coming through, as opposed to just seeing films of the past, and that's something which the whole industry can work together to deploy.
'Cineworld will have been supported throughout the year through the furlough scheme through other ways the Government has been supporting businesses.
'Conscious that aspects of the main furlough scheme are coming to an end, but there is a successor scheme there.'
Mr Greidinger said Cineworld will wait until 'the appropriate time' to talk about reopening.
Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: 'The new jobs support scheme, which will subsidise wages of part-time workers, will provide no lifeline for the 5,500 Cineworld UK employees who will lose their jobs this week and many others across the industry are facing a bleak winter on jobseekers benefit, while they begin the difficult search for new positions in the run-up to Christmas.'
Labour shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens said: 'This is devastating news for Cineworld workers and cinema goers, and will have a knock-on impact on towns and city centres.
The latest film in the James Bond series 'No Time To Die', which had been scheduled to debut in theatres on November 11, has now been postponed until April 2021
Today's news comes as another knock-back for the UK cinema industry, which took a profit hit when the country was plunged into lockdown in March following the outbreak of coronavirus.
After months of forced closures, Cineworld was due to reopen its theatres on July 10, after lockdown measures were eased by the government, allowing the reopening of cinemas from July 4.
But it delayed the reopening of its cinemas in the UK by more than two weeks until July 31 to coincide with 'recent adjustments to the schedule of upcoming movie releases'.
Social distancing measures were also introduced, including such as one-way systems, perspex screens for staff, mandatory contactless payment and no more pick and mix.
However, despite reopening, Cineworld raised doubts over its ability to survive a second lockdown as it reported a £1.3bn loss for the first half of the year because of the Covid-19