Grab your popcorn: Dozens of movie theatres across B.C. open their doors
VANCOUVER -- Now that British Columbia has moved into Phase 3 of its restart plan, movie theaters are reopening, but with reduced capacity.
“We were pleasantly surprised by the demand in Alberta on opening weekend,” said Bill Walker, CEO of Landmark Cinemas Canada, which is opening 13 locations in B.C. Friday.
Select locations were opened in Alberta on June 26, with reduced seating and staggered show times to allow for physical distancing.
“Of the seats available through the first four days, about 60 percent of those seats available were sold,” said Walker, who emphasized that only 45 percent of the seats in each auditorium are actually available for sale.
Walker estimates Landmark employs up to 400 people in B.C., and was able to maintain its full-time workforce thanks to government wage subsidies, and re-opening has allowed part-time workers to be re-hired.
Walker says the company is looking towards August, when new theatrical releases are expected. For now, there’s a variety of popular movies available on-screen for $5 per ticket, ranging from the 2019 modern-day murder mystery 'Knives Out' to classic blockbusters like 1984’s ‘Ghostbusters’ and 2008’s ‘The Dark Knight.’
As for snacks, the classic movie theatre popcorn will be available, but Landmark’s concession stands have limited menu options to cut down on congestion in the lobby.
Similarly, Cineplex is opening eight B.C. locations Friday, with another 16 opening later this month.
“We’ll be staggering our show times, so that means we’ll never have one show time that’s leaving at the same time that one auditorium is going in,” says Cineplex spokesperson Sarah Van Lange.
Theatres have stepped up cleaning protocols, with staff sanitizing auditoriums between screenings.
Similar procedures are underway at independent theatres in Vancouver, such as the Dunbar, which is open to private screenings, and the Rio Theatre, which opened its doors Thursday.
Rio owner Corrine Lea says the 420-seat theatres is restricted to only 50 customers at a time, and is hoping health officials will increase the limit to 100 people.
Lea believes visiting the Rio is safer than dining in a restaurant, “When you’re watching a movie you’re not talking, you’re sitting still, eyes up on the screen, people aren’t getting up socialising so I definitely feel that this is a much safer environment."