Big chain theatres staying patient while waiting to reopen in Manitoba
WINNIPEG -- When the province unveiled Phase Three of reopening last week, one industry that had to stay closed in Manitoba was movie theatres.
As other provinces in the country continue their reopening strategies, movie theatres have made the cut, and people can go see a movie as early as Friday in Alberta, followed closely by B.C. and Saskatchewan on July 3.
As of June 25, Alberta currently has 506 active cases, while B.C. has 179 active cases and Saskatchewan has 98 active cases. Manitoba currently has 15.
The Manitoba government said in a statement to CTV News that theatres in the province will continue to stay closed under the current health orders.
"The virus spreads easily in these settings and public health will continue to protect Manitobans but also keep working with groups to explore options," the statement said.
Sarah Van Lange, who is the executive director of communications at Cineplex, said the company respects all health orders from the province.
"We're taking the lead from government. So when the government feels that the community is ready, that’s really our cue to step in," said Van Lange. "Our business is entertaining, and when they tell us that it is go time, we will be ready."
Bill Walker, the CEO of Landmark, shares a similar sentiment, but wishes that Manitoba would allow theatres to open, since places like restaurants have been able to open their doors.
"Ultimately, though we would agree as we observe, as spectators to this, like you are as customers, saying 'Geez it would really seem logical that we should be able to open in the province of Manitoba'," said Walker. "We really think our experience can be well-positioned equally or better than restaurants from our ability to create a controlled experience that doesn't present a high risk to our customers."
Walker said many part-time employees are eager to get back to work, and he feels like theatres were miscategorized in the reopening process.
"In particular, in our locations where we have reserved seating. You look at it, we can control the showtimes, we set when we want you to arrive, we know where everyone is going to be sitting when they arrive, and we can ensure physical distancing."
He added when people are at theatres, there are limited interactions once a movie starts. He said the hope is no one talks during the movie, and with the new guidelines in place, people wouldn't be sitting as close to others as they would have before the pandemic.
"It's not like a restaurant, where servers are coming to and going to tables and other customers are going to washrooms. It's actually a very controlled linear flow."
Walker said he has been in talks with the provincial government and was told some industries and sectors may be allowed to open on a "one-off basis."
WHAT THEATRES COULD LOOK LIKE WHEN THEY REOPEN IN MANITOBA
Although a date hasn't been set for when Manitobans could go to the theatres, both Landmark and Cineplex say they will be ready.
Van Lange said Cineplex has a long list of measures they are taking in other provinces.
"On the cleaning side, we are enhancing our cleaning practices throughout all of our buildings with particular focus on high contact surfaces, in restrooms and seats, and the seats will be cleaned after each and every showtime," she said. "Physical distancing measures are being put in place across our entire theatres. From your entire guest journey, from the moment you even think about going to a movie, until you exit that auditorium, there will be physical distancing measures put in place.
"Then, we are launching reserved seating at all of our auditoriums across Canada. Every other row will be blocked off, and then we will be grouping guests in groups of two," said Van Lange.
Walker said the biggest thing Landmark will be doing is reducing occupancy at all theatres.
"So, in recliner sites, we only have about 45 per cent of the seats left. In a non-recliner site, sort of conventional seating, we only end up with about 25 per cent of the seats left," said Walker.
He added that there will Plexiglas at concession counters, and staff will be wearing masks. Seats will be cleaned after every show.
WHAT MOVIES CAN PEOPLE WATCH?
With film production halted because of COVID-19, there might not be a lot of movie options for people to see, but both Cineplex and Landmark will be showing select titles.
Van Lange said Cineplex will be showing popular new release titles, while Walker said the theatres will be digging into the archives and showing older movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark and Forrest Gump.
Both added that tickets will be $5 and Cineplex will have $3 movie days on Tuesdays.