Cineworld is set to shut all 128 of its theatres in the UK and Ireland as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic according to reports.

The Sunday Times reports that the cinema chain could close all UK sites as early as this week in a move that would put up to 5,500 jobs at risk.

Cineworld Group PLC, the world's second-largest cinema chain, has witnessed a drop in share value with bosses at the company reportedly preparing to write to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and culture minister Oliver Dowden to say the industry has become 'unviable'.

The move, which is expected to be a temporary measure until next year, has been blamed on the postponement of the release of big-budget films in the wake of coronavirus pandemic.

READ MORE: Cineworld confirms it is considering the 'temporary closure' of UK and US cinemas due to Covid-19 pandemic

The release of the new James Bond movie No Time to Die was delayed until April 2021, just weeks before it was about to be released, with other films such as Disney's Mulan being released direct to their streaming service, Disney+. It comes following a mixed response to Christopher Nolan's Tenant, which many in the industry had hoped would coax customers back.

No Time to Die had already been postponement from its original release date in April due to coronavirus. It has now been pushed back to November 2, 2021.

READ MORE: James Bond: No Time To Die delayed again until April 2021A statement on the delay of the film read: 'MGM, Universal and Bond producers, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, today announced the release of NO TIME TO DIE, the 25th film in the James Bond series, will be delayed until 2 April 2021 in order to be seen by a worldwide theatrical audience."

READ MORE: Cineworld issues warning over its future after half-year losses of £1.3bn

Despite reopening, Cineworld reported a £1.3bn loss for the first half of the year because of the Covid-19 crisis.

The cinema chain, which is the largest in the UK and second largest in the world behind Chinese firm Wanda Cinemas, posted a pre-tax loss for the six months to June compares with profits of £110m in the previous year.

The chain had reopened 561 out of 778 sites worldwide as lockdown restrictions have been eased.

The Sunday Times reports that the majority of Cineworld staff will be asked to accept redundancy, with possible incentives to rejoin the company when they opt to reopen.

Philippa Childs of union Bectu, which represents people in the cinema sector, said: “If these reports are true, then the first people Cineworld should be informing are their staff who will suffer as a result – not the Sunday newspapers.

“Whilst cinemas have been able to open since July and the experience of those who have visited since then has been an overwhelmingly positive one, the stark reality is that without new releases it is unlikely that footfall will increase to a level that makes opening financially viable.

“The delay in the release of the Bond film along with the other delayed releases has plunged cinema into crisis.

“Studios will have to think carefully when considering release dates about the impact that will have for the long term future of the big screen.”

The head of the UK Cinema Association said he fears the Cineworld closure is “indicative of challenges faced by the entire UK cinema industry at the moment”.

Phil Clapp told BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House programme: “Although cinemas opened in July and have been able to deliver a safe and enjoyable experience, without major new titles then we understand we aren’t able to get as many people out of the home as we’d like.

In July, the Government promised a package of more than £1.5 billion to help the arts and culture industries forced to shut down earlier this year as a result of the pandemic.

Cineworld had reopened most of its cinemas in July when lockdown measures were eased across the country.