CINEMAS have been plunged into financial crisis after Covid caused the latest postponement of Bond film No Time to Die.
The delay until April, announced on Friday, will cost the top chains up to £50million.
Cineworld, which owns 128 movie theatres in the UK and Ireland, is believed to be “on the brink” after shares dropped by 2.5 per cent.
It had already lost £1.3billion globally due to the virus and cut entry to £4 to coax back punters.
No Time to Die — starring Daniel Craig and co-written by Killing Eve’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge — was hoped to match the success of the 2015 Bond movie Spectre, which made £80million at UK box offices.
In 2012 Bond movie Skyfall raked in a record £103million here.
Jane Crowther, editor of Total Film, told The Sun on Sunday: “I’m massively surprised by this decision.
“It’s a disaster for UK cinemas and it will cost them, conservatively £50million in the short run. They’ll hope to make the money back next April but who knows how many cinemas will still be open then to show it?”
A source said: “Cineworld were very hopeful the Bond movie would be their saviour in these difficult times. Bosses will be very worried about the firm’s future.”
Cinemas had experienced a much-needed shot in the arm in August when Christopher Nolan’s action thriller Tenet took £5.4million in the UK in its first weekend.
The film was the first big blockbuster to be released since theatres were shut in March.
No Time to Die, the 25th Bond film, had already been put back once with producers desperate to recoup the record £200million it cost to make.
A second global advertising campaign, worth £100million alone, was already well under way while promotional campaigns and product placement deals had been launched with sponsors including Heineken, Bollinger, Aston Martin and Nokia.
The film’s official podcast aired on Wednesday and the video for Billie Eilish’s title song was released on Friday.
Cinemas were planning to leave the film running for weeks, and it was assumed that since major markets such as China were open, no more delays would be needed.
Cineworld said it had reopened 561 out of 778 sites worldwide as lockdown restrictions have been eased.
Leading film lawyer Nick Miller said: “Clearly, it’s a huge problem for cinemas in the short term as Bond joins the list of other event films postponed until 2021.
“The decision to postpone further is easy to understand with further lockdowns and restrictions in place or imminent in the UK and other key international markets.
“The losses are significant and how many cinemas, particularly the independents, will be able to survive without revenue from Bond and other event films this year?”
A spokesman for Cineworld declined to comment.
Meanwhile Bond’s favourite casino is facing the axe after bank chiefs threatened to close its account.
Government-owned RBS has told eight historic London venues it will stop cashing cheques from mega-rich foreign gamblers at the end of the year.
It will be “catastrophic” for Les Ambassadeurs, the Mayfair casino featured in the 007 movie Dr No.
The owners have appealed to Chancellor Rishi Sunak to intervene.
Under the Gambling Act, cheques are the only realistic way high rollers can pay to play, as casinos are not allowed to offer advances.
Between them the eight employ 1,350 staff, pay £150million a year in tax and pull in at least another £120million in tourism spend.
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