B.C. movie theatres begin selling tickets for in-person viewing ahead of restrictions lifting
VANCOUVER -- Many theatres across the province are now selling movie tickets again.
British Columbia is on track to enter Step 2 of its COVID-19 restart plan next Tuesday, if case counts continue to stay low, and it appears that’s when people will be able to see films on the big screen.
Theatres were shut down last November, when provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry banned social gatherings and events.
It’s been a tough year for industry; it was completely shut down twice and has remained that way for the majority of the pandemic.
The CEO of Landmark Cinemas believes movie theatres should have been one of the first venues allowed to reopen.
“Most of these auditoriums we're talking about are 4,000 to 5,000 square feet. So in comparison, certainly to a restaurant that has actually no capacity limit, just has physical barriers, or physical distance, the density of occupancy in a restaurant far and away exceeds the density that we see in movie theatres," said Bill Walker, CEO of Landmark Cinemas
Landmark plans to reopen Tuesday in accordance with the rules on organized gatherings outlined in Step 2.
That phase allows indoor seated gatherings up to 50 people with a COVID-19 safety plan in place.
“We are excited to welcome movie lovers across British Columbia back to the big screen, big sound movie-going experience that you can only enjoy in theatres,” Walker said.
Moviegoers will be required to wear masks, but can take them off to eat once seated.
Walker says the pandemic caused a lag in production in the movie industry and because of that, there could be a small gap in new releases 18 months from now.
“But the movies that were already in production leading into the pandemic, or that we're all frankly ready to be released, when the pandemic hit last March and through last year, all of those movies kind of were put in a vault and tucked away and have been waiting for this moment,” he explained.
He also doesn’t expect customers to rush back to theatres right away.
“I don't think it's just a Band-Aid we're going to rip off and then everyone's ready to go to a nightclub or to a crowded pub or whatever might be. I think in the same way in a theater to fill that whole cinema is not something that's going to happen overnight. We think there's just a psychological progression for everyone,” Walker told CTV News.
Cineplex also plans to open its theatres on Tuesday if B.C. successfully enters Step 2.
It has similar protocols in place like enhanced cleaning, reserved seating, and staggered showtimes.
“We continue to prioritize health and safety measures to ensure that our theatres are a safe, relaxing, and inviting space for movie-lovers to escape with family and friends,” said Sarah Van Lange, executive director of communications for Cineplex in a release.
The reopening will be big news for struggling independent theatres like the Rio in Vancouver.
It’s been operating as a sports bar just to stay afloat for the past few months.
“It's been very frustrating. We've seen all these other industries thought of and taken care of and considered. And we just we don't know why. But it seems the art sector was very much neglected,” said Corinne Lea, owner of the Rio.
The Rio is also selling tickets for Tuesday screenings.