AND so to the government’s ‘world-leading’ response to the Coronavirus-induced crisis in the arts. Older readers might remember that back at the beginning of July, the government took the plaudits for announcing a £1.57 billion emergency fund for arts organisations.

Three months on, newspaper reports at the weekend reveal that, as of yet, none of this money has yet reached our theatres. All the while, the debts rack up: Wiltshire Creative, to give one example, estimate to have lost £500,000 in ticket sales. I don’t know if any of our local MPs read their local paper, but if they do, may I request they put an esteemed foot up the relevant jacksie, before any more talented creatives and freelance performers lose their livelihoods.

This week, the arts crisis went celluloid. With his unerring sense of comic timing, Boris Johnson spent Monday telling people to go out and support their local cinema, on the same day that Cineworld announced it was closing all of its theatres and Odeon shifted to a weekend-only model.

The trigger to these closures appears to have been fired by James Bond. Last week it was announced that the unfortunately named No Time To Die, already postponed from April to November, has now been put back again to next spring. It’s not the only big-budget movie to be delayed: Marvel’s Black Widow is now scheduled for next summer, and Stephen Spielberg’s West Side Story has been pushed back to Christmas 2021.

For some film studios, the decision has been to hold on until they can get a guaranteed return on their money. For others, the option has been to explore alternative ways to audiences: Disney, for example, opted to put its real-life remake of Mulan on its Disney+ channel for £19.99 a pop.

All of which might help to preserves the studio’s investments, but serves to cut out the cinema middleman in the process. With no big new films to draw punters in, it’s no surprise that UK box office returns are currently less than a tenth of 2019 levels. The mothballing of screens is the inevitable consequence of this. The question is, when (when!) we are finally past this pandemic, will the cinema chains still be there to open their doors again?

With Disney, Netflix and Amazon all making movies and having their own ways of distributing them, cinema was already in an uphill battle for its future, even before coronavirus came along. Yes, the tickets can be eye-watering and yes, no-one ever needs that much popcorn, but it would still be a tragedy if they went to the wall. The big screen experience, in every respect, is smaller when you’re on your sofa at home.