New Zealand's biggest cinema chain is looking at cutting its workforce as it restructures in response to weeks of lockdown when people could not go to the movies.

Carmen Switzer, Event Cinemas NZ general manager, said the business was restructuring and "entering into a consultation process with staff and the unions to reduce its workforce, in line with the current and future business requirements".

Event runs its own branded cinemas as well as the Rialto chain.

John Crocker, an industrial officer with Unite Union, said his entity represented about 167 Event workers and he estimated that business employed around 350 people in this country.


"We're engaging in consultation with Event which has just started. There's a proposal they're looking at to reduce overall labour by 50 per cent," he said.

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A number of options were being discussed, he said.

"Some people might reduce their hours. There could be job losses but some people might take voluntary redundancy. Then there might be the next step taken where there are non-voluntary redundancies," Crocker said.

The union holds concerns about possible redundancies and restructuring at other cinema chains Hoyts and Readings, he said.

Switzer said Event had outlined the effects of the global Covid-19 pandemic to its national workforce and steps it had taken in response.

Following weeks of closure, major changes to the future film line up, the impact of coronavirus and the public health response, Event would undertake a restructure, she said.

"The restructure follows a number of other initiatives that have been made right across the Event Hospitality & Entertainment group, owners of Event Cinemas New Zealand, to minimise the impact on people across the group," a company statement said.

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"The efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus globally has impacted the planned release of new films and the measures put in place under alert level 2 restrict the number of customers able to access cinemas," she said.

To preserve as many jobs in long term and ensure the business remained in a good position to get through this crisis, Event had have made the difficult but essential decision to reduce its workforce.

"This will mean starting the process of redundancies and entering a consultation period with staff," she said.

"Unfortunately, like many other businesses, we are not exempt from the impact of this pandemic. We are committed to working openly and honestly with our people during this time, supporting them in the best way we can," she said.

On March 23, Event said all movie theatres were to be shut. Event said all its theatres, including the Embassy Theatre in Wellington and Rialto Cinemas, would be closed temporarily from today until further notice.


Only a few weeks before lockdown, Event opened a big new multiplex at Westfield Newmarket, with daybeds or full recliner seats alongside individual coffee tables in bespoke theatres carpeted in red with walls lined with books.

The Sydney-headquartered business brought 'The Library' and 'The Gallery' to its Newmarket multiplex.

Event lists 19 separate locations for its cinemas: Whangarei, Albany, Broadway, Newmarket, St Lukes, Queen St, Henderson's Westcity, Manukau, Westgate at Massey, New Plymouth, Mt Maunganui, Tauranga Crossing, Tauranga Central, Havelock North, Coastlands, Chartwell, Palmerston North, The Embassy and Blenheim.