THE oldest operational cinema in Britain will close due to the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis.

Yesterday it emerged that Cineworld was closing its chain of cinemas in the UK and Ireland.

Cineworld is the world's second largest cinema operator, and the largest in the UK, where it operates the Cineworld and Picturehouse brands.

Brighton's Duke of York's in Preston Road and Duke's at Komedia in Gardner street are Picturehouse cinemas, but no statement had been made which clarified whether the closure included this brand.

The Argus:

But the cinema chain today confirmed plans to temporarily close its sites in both the UK and the US after big studios started to delay their major film releases to wait for better audiences.

The decision will affect around 45,000 employees in the two countries - Cineworld's two main markets.

It will shut 127 Cineworld and Picturehouse theatres in the UK from this Thursday, and 536 Regal theatres in the US.

Duke of York's in Preston Road, which is believed to be the oldest cinema in Britain in continuous use, as well as the cinema in the North Laine will therefore be among the closures.

Cineworld 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 - including meeting, and often exceeding, local health and safety guidelines in our theatres and working constructively with regulators and industry bodies to restore public confidence in our industry.

"We are especially grateful for and proud of the hard work our employees put in to adapt our theatres to the new protocols and cannot underscore enough how difficult this decision was. Cineworld will continue to monitor the situation closely and will communicate any future plans to resume operations in these markets at the appropriate time, when key markets have more concrete guidance on their reopening status and, in turn, studios are able to bring their pipeline of major releases back to the big screen."

Shares in Cineworld dropped by 57% as markets opened on Monday after it confirmed plans to close all of its theatres in the UK and the US temporarily.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey insisted there has been "a lot of support" for companies, after Cineworld confirmed plans to temporarily shutter its theatres in the UK.

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.

"Cineworld ... we cannot make every economic decision for companies, it's up to them to make that choice, but I do think, frankly, there has been a lot of support in order to try and keep people in jobs, and I know that businesses recognise that."

Vue chief executive Tim Richards said the cinema chain will try to prevent any lay-offs but that it is suffering from the "big blow" of a lack of new major movie releases.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We're good to go. Our customers right now ... there's a pent-up demand like we've never seen before to go out and enjoy a safe environment socially with others.

"Our problem right now is we have no movies. This was a big blow for us. We're likely going to make it through; I'm concerned about the independents and the small regional operators right now that are going to really struggle and when they close they may not reopen.

"We've tried to retain all of our jobs for the 5,500 employees we have in the UK and that's still our goal. We're going to try and find a way through this. This was an industry that was not broken.

"We came into this as a very strong industry; we just need to make it through the next three or four months where there are no movies."