Screens went dark today in Picturehouse cinemas across the UK, as sites closed in the latest setback for the film industry.

The cinema chain announced it will “temporarily” shut all of its 26 sites from Friday 9 October, including Clapham, Fulham Road and Brixton’s the Ritzy.

The move follows parent company Cineworld's closure of 101 cinemas, after claims the industry is currently “unviable”. 

The firm said it has been hit by delays in the release of big-budget films during the pandemic

MGM and Universal Studios’ decision to push back the James Bond film ‘No Time To Die’ until April 2021, is thought to be a leading factor. 

A statement on the cinema chain’s website said:

“It's with great sadness that Picturehouse Cinemas will be temporarily closing all cinemas from Friday 9 October.”

“We cannot reiterate enough how difficult this decision was, and how devastated we are to be in this position. We did everything in our power to support the safe, sustainable re-openings of our cinemas, and we are very grateful to our employees..."

The company added that, at present, there is no set date for reopening.

Up to 5,500 jobs are at risk, with many employees accepting redundancies in the hopes of being rehired if cinemas open again. 

At the Picturehouse in Clapham Common, staff said they “hadn’t heard anything” about plans for the future.

One employee, who wished to remain anonymous, discovered her job was lost on Monday. She read the news in the Sunday Times before she was informed by the Picturehouse. 

At the Clapham branch for the last seven years, she is unsure what the future holds.  

Wandsworth Times: Picturehouse in Venn St, Clapham CommonPicturehouse in Venn St, Clapham Common

“It’s been a very special place for me to work, and it’s going to be very weird not being here anymore, it already feels quite sad.

“I’m really hoping to hear good news from the company about what they’re going to do about pay, or general plans to reopen because we’ve not heard anything apart from that they’re closing tomorrow.”

“I knew it wasn’t going well; there’s no one here. But it’s the way it was dealt with which wasn’t particularly nice. If it were an independent cinema it wouldn’t be like this.”        

In its temporary closure announcement, the Picturehouse apologised to employees.

"We are sorry that many of you heard the news through the press before we had the opportunity to contact you directly," the company said. 

The 30-year-old is now looking for jobs elsewhere, though accepts that work in the hospitality industry is hard to come by right now. 

“I’m aware this it’s a pandemic – lots of people aren’t doing what they want at the moment. Work will be whatever you can get in this period."

But the former stables in Venn Street, Clapham, has a long history of changing hands.

Opening first as the Electric Palace cinema in 1910 it was then sold and transformed into the Coliseum, a film venue seating up to 3,000 people. 

For many years the cinema became a snooker club until in 1990 it was purchased by City Screen Cinemas, who converted it into the three-screen Clapham Picturehouse. Later, another screen and bar and restaurant were opened. 

In the nearly 30 years since the art house cinema has been a symbol of the community. Many came out yesterday to say goodbye - at least for now.