Cineworld Friars Walk remains closed as chain ‘filing for bankruptcy’

HOPES of seeing the Cineworld in Friars Walk re-open after almost two-and-a-half years have taken a significant dent following reports the cinema chain is preparing to file for bankruptcy “within weeks”.

Cineworld’s Friars Walk cinema closed in March 2020 due to coronavirus restrictions – but did not re-open alongside the cinema in Spytty when the restrictions were eased.

An email seen by the Argus was sent to staff in April 2021 blaming the closure of the Friars Walk site on “unpredictable business levels”, saying this “made opening both Newport cinemas unviable”.

Friars Walk has confirmed to the Argus that – 16 months on – the cinema chain is still leasing its city centre site.

However, any hopes of seeing the cinema re-open appear to be slim, after shares in Cineworld plummeted following reports by the Wall Street Journal that the chain is preparing to file for bankruptcy “within weeks”.

Shares dived by two-thirds within minutes of the report that lawyers from Kirkland & Ellis and consultants from AlixPartners had been hired to advise the bankruptcy process.

It comes two days after Cineworld said it is assessing options to shore up its finances after it blamed a “limited” film slate for weak audience numbers in recent months.

The company, which also owns the Picturehouse chain in the UK and Regal Cinemas in the US, had pinned its hopes on releases such as Top Gun: Maverick, The Batman and Thor: Love And Thunder to aid its recovery from the heavy impact of the pandemic.

However, it told the London Stock Exchange on Wednesday: “Despite a gradual recovery of demand since reopening in April 2021, recent admission levels have been below expectations.

“These lower levels of admissions are due to a limited film slate that is anticipated to continue until November 2022 and are expected to negatively impact trading and the group’s liquidity position in the near term.”

The business, which was saddled with $4.8 billion (£4 billion) of debt at the end of the last financial year, said it was considering restructuring its balance sheet to protect its future, according to the Press Association.

Cineworld has been contacted for comment.

South Wales Argus | Business