Cineplex urges Ontario to change theater occupancy limits

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Executives at Cineplex Inc. are calling on the Ontario government to ease restrictions on the number of people who can occupy its theaters at a time.Dan McGrath, chief operating officer of the Canadian movie theater chain, said the company has been having conversations with the province’s health ministry in hopes of revising limits that allow up to 50 moviegoers in one. only auditorium.

Ontario’s Stage 3 reopening guidelines, introduced last week, cap a 50-guest movie theater occupancy in the building, regardless of the number of screens it operates.

McGrath says the existing capacity rules don’t make economic sense for the chain.

“Unless we could have 50 people per auditorium, we would be operating at a loss,” he said Wednesday.

“We would like to see higher. ”

Brooke Timpson, a spokesperson for the Ontario government, said the province “will continue to work with our stakeholders, public health officials and other levels of government to ensure the safe reopening of our province. But she said the 50-person rule for indoor sites is still in effect.

“Businesses and industries unable to open or operate sustainably due to the Stage 3 restrictions are encouraged to visit Ontario.ca/reopen to submit a reopening proposal,” Timpson added in an email.

The number of people allowed inside a cinema varies by province, depending on the impact of COVID-19 and reopening measures introduced by local health authorities.

In Nova Scotia, theaters can operate at 50 percent of auditorium capacity for up to 200 people with physical distance in effect, while Saskatchewan movie screens are capped at 30 percent.

Cineplex has reopened 35 locations in provinces where the distancing measures are less restrictive. The company introduced new seating plans to meet guidelines and improved its cleaning procedures, but its theaters in Ontario remain closed.

Landmark Cinemas and Imagine Cinemas, two other chains that operate a number of multiplexes, have also closed their cinemas in the province.

Some independent single-screen theaters reopened in Ontario over the past week, including theaters in Kingston and Waterloo.

Many of these cinemas feature older titles, such as jurassic park and The Goonies or more recent films released before the shutdown, including “Emma” and “The Invisible Man”.

Hollywood postpones opening dates for biggest new movies

The urgency of reopening theaters has been minimal this summer, in part because Hollywood continues to push its biggest new films onto the schedule as the United States battles the spread of the virus.

In Canada, “Target Number One,” a legal thriller starring Josh Hartnett as former Globe and Mail reporter Victor Malarek, was a rare new film to open in some cities.

“The combination of the number of people we’re seeing coming in now, along with the wage subsidy program, certainly makes this viable for us, at least for the next two months,” McGrath said.

“As long as we continue to receive a few films – even if they are smaller films – new films with the product from the catalog, we are able to maintain that and operate profitably. ”

Cineplex has faced a number of hurdles in recent months as it struggles with the complete shutdown of its theaters amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company was originally slated to be bought by Cineworld Group PLC for $ 2.8 billion earlier this year, but the UK-based chain backed out of the deal due to suspected significant negative effects – or unforeseen circumstances that have affected the value of the agreement – and violations. of the contract.

Cineplex has denied the allegations and says Cineworld is withdrawing from the deal due to buyer’s remorse.

Last week, Cineplex laid off more than 130 employees as it turns to an uncertain list of movie releases in the coming months.

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