IT seems even 007 himself can’t save multiplexes from the Covid crisis.

Originally due for release in April, new Bond film No Time To Die has been postponed worldwide twice. And, following delays of the release of other long-awaited blockbusters, the Cineworld chain has temporarily closed all 127 sites in the UK, including its Bradford multiplex at the Leisure Exchange.

It was hoped that the summer release of Christopher Nolan’s time-bending thriller Tenet - which made more than £5 million at the UK and Ireland box office on its opening weekend - would be a shot in the arm for the cinema industry, and lure audiences back to multiplexes after months of closure during lockdown. But Marvel film Black Widow, sci-fi blockbuster Dune and Jurassic World: Dominion are among high-profile titles that have seen delays due to the pandemic.

Cinema chains Odeon and Vue have raised concerns, and the Prime Minister has acknowledged that there will be “tough times ahead” in the jobs market following the Cineworld announcement, although he encouraged people to go to the movies.

While it’s a challenging time for the multiplexes, many smaller and independent cinemas are staying open. And David Wilson, director of Bradford City of Film, says the current situation has given these venues an opportunity to try new screenings and boost their profile in the process.

David has been instrumental in getting a local classification for new film Say Your Prayers, starring Sir Derek Jacobi - which was filmed in Ilkley and is set in the town’s famous literature festival - and next month it will have special screenings at Ilkley Cinema.

The film, which also stars Anna Maxwell Martin and Bradford actress Vinette Robinson, is about “two orphaned brothers turned radical Christian hitmen” who travel to Ilkley to assassinate a famed atheist writer, a guest speaker at the literature festival.

“’Say Your Prayers was originally only scheduled for release on Video on Demand platforms but Ilkley Cinema approached me regarding a local classification,” says David. “I worked with the Bradford Council licensing department and within the British Board of Film Classification guidelines to enable a cinema rated screening to take place. We gave it a 12A certificate.

“It’s a difficult time for many sectors at the moment, but cinema in particular has struggled, with availability of a number of high profile film releases being postponed. I’m really pleased to see that independent cinemas such as Ilkley are trying new approaches to scheduling.

“It’s a shame that Cineworld took the decision to close temporarily, but it gives independents chance to try new things.”

"I hope Say Your Prayers will be a success for Ilkley Cinema. I’m sure it will attract a local Ilkley audience, as it all takes place in the town surrounding place, including the moor and Craiglands Hotel.”

Bradford City of Film supported Say Your Prayers filming in 2017. “The first day coincided with the ‘Beast from the East’ snow storms,” says David. “There were frantic phone calls to reschedule planned locations, including the TV studio at the University of Bradford.”

While some independent cinemas are dark, Ilkley Cinema is showing films ranging from Mamma Mia: Here We go Again to screenings of Nick Cave at Alexandra Palace, and new releases like The Secret Garden, starring Colin Firth and Julie Walters, filmed at Yorkshire locations including Fountains Abbey. Georgia Milner at Ilkley Cinema says: “We re-opened in August to a very positive response. After spending such a long time planning our returning programme and making sure our booking system allowed for social distancing it was a huge relief to have the public welcome us back with confidence.

“We do feel for multiplexes right now, their business model is so dependent on big-budget titles and big studios/distributors are unwilling to part with them because they need that global market. I think what I’ve not been reading in the press as much is how great the indie distributors/exhibitors are. It’s uplifting to see so many independent cinemas and festivals thriving in these uncertain times. It’s a good time to be exhibiting independent films right now. I believe that local community cinemas - now more than ever - provide an important service. In times like these, it’s great to have somewhere where we can escape for a few hours. We appreciate those moments of escape so much more - that’s the power of cinema.

“We have an eclectic programme for the autumn season, from up-and-coming indies, immersive events to family classics. Our October half-term slate includes the highly anticipated adaptation of Daphne du Maurier classic Rebecca, starring Lily James, and for event cinema, we’re bringing back NT Live classics.”

The Light Cinema in Bradford also has a varied programme of documentaries and live music shows, including Michael Ball and Alfie Boe Back Together and I Am Greta, about Greta Thunberg and a London Film Festival screening of Francis Lee’s Ammonite, written and directed by West Yorkshire’s Francis Lee.

Julie Monks, deputy manager of The Light Cinema, says: “With a lot of big movies moving their dates around, people may not be aware that there are still good films out there, including strong independents. After We Collided, sequel to a Netflix movie, is doing well, and The Trial of the Chicago 7. These are films not necessarily on the radar, but people who’ve been to see them have found them excellent.

"With Bradford priding itself on being City of Film, we need to shout about our local cinemas.”