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Cineworld Withdraws Support of BAFTA Over Awards to ‘Roma’

In a sign of the continuing controversy over “Roma’s” haul of BAFTA Awards earlier this month, leading U.K. cinema chain Cineworld has pulled its support of the British Academy.

In a letter to BAFTA members, film committee chairman Marc Samuelson said that Cineworld had made a “unilateral decision to withdraw its support” of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts over “concerns regarding the eligibility requirements of the Film Awards.” Members of the organization will no longer be able to use their BAFTA cards for free screenings at Cineworld theaters.

Cineworld was unavailable for comment Thursday evening.

Its decision follows similar criticism by Tim Richards, the head of the Vue exhibition chain, who had excoriated BAFTA for allowing “Roma” to compete for its film awards and thereby “choosing to endorse and promote a ‘made for TV’ film that audiences were unable to see on a big screen.” He said that the showings of “Roma” in selected Curzon theaters in Britain had amounted to little more than a “token effort” by Netflix to qualify the film for awards contention.

Richards, too, had threatened to withdraw his company’s support of BAFTA unless it reconsidered its awards eligibility criteria. However, according to Samuelson’s letter, Vue has since “agreed to engage in the discussion and the review of our eligibility criteria in the coming months, and I encourage all areas of the industry to be heard as part of this review.”

The BAFTAs are the most prestigious film awards given outside the U.S. At the star-studded ceremony Feb. 10, “Roma” walked away with the prizes for best film, direction, cinematography and foreign-language film.

The British Academy has defended its decision to allow “Roma” to compete. A spokesman said earlier this month that organizers of the awards were “satisfied that every film in contention” had met the criteria for entry, “which includes a meaningful U.K. theatrical release.”

BAFTA members are entitled to free entry for screenings Monday through Thursday at Britain’s top cinema chains: Vue, Odeon and, until now, Cineworld.

The Cineworld Group operates theaters across the British Isles, in Central and Eastern Europe, and in the U.S. In 2017, it acquired U.S.-based Regal Entertainment Group.

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