Cineworld shares closed almost 60% lower this evening following reports it was preparing to file for bankruptcy "within weeks".

Shares fell by more than two-thirds at one point today after the Wall Street Journal reported that the chain had hired lawyers from Kirkland & Ellis and consultants from AlixPartners to advise the bankruptcy process.

Cineworld has one cinema in Dublin and one in Belfast. It has a further 126 branches in Britain; as part of a group that boasts more than 9,000 screens worldwide.

However, the business has struggled in recent years as Covid-19 forced the prolonged closure of cinemas for many months.

Studios have also delayed major releases over the past two and a half years, with some films skipping movie screens altogether in favour of on-demand and streaming services.

This summer has seen some return to normality, with blockbusters like 'Top Gun 2: Maverick' proving a hit with cinema-goers.

However despite Covid restrictions easing in many countries, studios have still released fewer films than they would in a typical summer, which has dented recovery hopes for the likes of Cineworld.

Just this week Cineworld warned that a lack of big-budget film releases was hitting admissions, a problem that it said would likely persist until November.

It also said it was still in discussions with parties over potential funding, or restructuring of its balance sheet.

In March Cineworld Group posted a pretax loss of $708.3m for 2021, though that was an improvement on the $3 billion loss it took in 2020.

The company is also struggling with a massive debt pile, which hit $8.9 billion last year.