Cineworld Group plc is the second largest cinema operator in Europe with 2,049 screens across 221 sites in 9 countries. The UK operations consist of arthouse chain Picturehouse Cinemas and multiplex chain Cineworld Cinemas with 24 and 82 cinemas respectively. All but two Cineworld sites are located in the UK, with one each in Ireland and Jersey. Cineworld is the second-largest cinema operator in the UK with over 800 screens, and the owner of the single largest multiplex by screens and customer base in Ireland. Cineworld Glasgow Renfrew Street is the tallest cinema in the world and the busiest, by customer base, in the UK. The Cineworld site with the greatest number of screens is that located at Valley Centertainment in Sheffield, which has 20. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index.
The first Cineworld opened in Stevenage, Hertfordshire in July 1996; the second, in a purpose-built location in Wakefield, Yorkshire, followed in late 1996, with Shrewsbury, Shropshire, following in November 1998. Additional sites were opened at a steady rate throughout the late '90s and early 2000s; in 2005, Cineworld also took over the UK and Ireland operations of French cinema company UGC. (As part of the merger, seven locations were sold to Empire Cinemas, due to UK fair trading law: Birmingham Great Park, Bishop's Stortford, Ealing, Slough, Sunderland, Swindon and Wigan.)
The Blackstone Group invested in Cineworld in 2004 when it was privately owned, and remained the largest shareholder in Cineworld Group PLC until it sold its entire remaining 20% shareholding in November 2010.
Post-merger, Cineworld have continued to open new locations; as of 2015, Cineworld have 82 locations in the UK, Ireland and Jersey and have a number of new locations in the pipeline.
In August 2013, The Guardian revealed that Cineworld employs 80% of its 4,300 staff on zero hour contracts.
In October 2013, The Chester location was closed due to the landowner wanting to develop the land into a supermarket. This has been the first Cineworld to close without being sold and was the first cinema to leave the chain in 8 years.
In 2014 Cineworld's Picturehouse chain was subject to industrial action owing to its refusal to pay the London Living Wage to its staff. The workforce attracted the support of Eric Cantona.
On 27 February 2014 Cineworld completed the takeover of Cinema City International N.V.. In what can be seen to be a partial reverse takeover, the Greidinger family (who owned a controlling 54% stake in Cinema City International) hold a controlling bloc as the largest shareholders in the newly formed company.
Each Cineworld cinema has between 1 and 20 screens, which typically show mainstream general-release films. Some Cineworlds also show broadcasts of opera, theatre, live music and sports. All Cineworlds also have a retail area, where food and drink such as popcorn, nachos or hotdogs can be purchased, Candyking pick and mix outlets are available at the majority of cinemas. Various cinemas sell Ben and Jerry's ice cream but many were switched to Baskin Robbins in late 2013-early 2014 as part of that brand's UK expansion. CafeBars and small amusement arcades can also be found at some cinemas. In October 2012, Cineworld began to replace some of its CafeBars with Starbucks Coffee outlets after agreeing a deal with the coffee chain.
As of September 2013, nine Cineworld cinemas have IMAX screens, and eight have D-BOX technology. As new sites open contracts have been signed for installs of both along with further installs of IMAX screens at older sites. Following a recent refit, the Milton Keynes cinema has acquired both a "Superscreen" and a 4DX screen, the first in the UK. Cineworld intends to roll out further "Superscreen" and 4DX screens to other sites in the future.
The majority of Cineworld cinemas offer a kids club named "Movies for Juniors", which screen selected children's films on Saturday & Sunday mornings at a discounted rate, and daily during school holidays.
In June 2011, Cineworld began a trial of a premium cinema brand, The Screening Rooms. Located next to the Cheltenham cinema, The Screening Rooms offers considerably larger, leather seating, premium food, and 'table' service.
Cineworld was the only cinema chain in the United Kingdom to operate a 'strict no food and drink policy' on items that have been bought elsewhere, but in November 2012 the food policy was changed and now states that "neither alcohol nor hot food may be brought onto the premises".
In early 2014 Cineworld introduced an allocated seating system, starting as a trial in selected sites including Wembley and rolling out to all their cinemas by the summer. The move was controversial and a Twitter campaign was created against this policy. Cineworld have responded to the criticism stating that it gives customers peace of mind along with other benefits.
Cineworld offers a subscription service using a membership card – the "Unlimited Card" – which provides subscribers with unlimited entrance for a set price per month, and currently 10% off all food and drink. Admission to 3D features incurs an additional fee, and does not include the cost of 3D glasses. The standard Unlimited card does not grant access to Cineworld's four West End cinemas (Chelsea, Haymarket, Leicester Square and Fulham Road); these require the purchase of a more expensive West End Unlimited card or an additional charge of £2 per ticket. Using the Unlimited branding, Cineworld also published a free monthly magazine entitled Unlimited, presenting information about upcoming movies the chain will be exhibiting. As of Summer 2012 however, the Unlimited name was removed from the magazine and the subsequently the magazine was simply renamed as Cineworld Magazine.
As of 26 November 2012, Unlimited members of 12 months continuous membership will be upgraded to the Unlimited Premium Card which grants 25% off all food and drink bought in cinema, 10% off Starbucks (on site only) and no uplift fees on 3D films.
In addition to the paid Unlimited scheme, Cineworld offer a free membership scheme called "myCineworld", which allows members a 10% discount on tickets when booking online and with allocated seating offers the member 'the best seats in the auditorium' when booking in advance.