It's showtime: B.C. movie theatres reopen with reduced capacity
VANCOUVER -- Some Vancouver moviegoers couldn’t wait. They bought tickets for the very first showtimes at Cineplex Marine Gateway on Tuesday, as movie theatres reopened for the first time since November 2020 under Step 2 of B.C.’s restart plan.
“It’s been too long away, and I’m just so excited and so happy that its finally open again,“ said Michelle Richderoba, who bought tickets for the new musical “In The Heights.” So did Karthik Sathiamoorthi, who told CTV News he had missed the moviegoing experience, including the popcorn.
“Of course there are all the streaming platforms now, but it's not the same," he said.
“This is a great moment, a great moment,” said theatre general manager Richard Mcluckie. “We have movies to play and we have people who want to see them, it’s wonderful.”
It’s a similar feeling at the Rio Theatre in Vancouver.
“I am absolutely thrilled. So excited,” says Corinne Lea, owner of the independent cinema on East Broadway and Commercial Drive.
The independently-owned cinema played two movies on Tuesday night to sold out audiences. In Step 2, each auditorium can have a maximum of 50 moviegoers in assigned seats.
When the province shut movie theatres down last November, Lea kept the Rio Theatre open by temporarily transforming it into a sports bar. With that new designation came the ability to host more than 50 people.
“When we were a sports bar we were allowed to have 125 seats based on social distancing. Who can explain that? The only difference was we were playing sports on the big screen.”
With more than 400 seats, Lea feels the Rio Theatre can safely seat more than 50 moviegoers.
Theatres hope they can have more guests in each auditorium under the next step, which is set to begin as early as July 1. But it’s unclear if that will be allowed.
“Increased gathering limits is suggested, we just don't know what it means for us. It's inferred that we could see an increase in capacity, but there is no clear guidance as to what that capacity would be,” said Bill Walker, the CEO of Landmark Cinemas.
After being closed for nearly seven months, some theatres are having a difficult time finding enough staff to fully reopen.
“We have been in contract communication, but ultimately many have left and found other jobs. We do have enough to reopen, some places will have a limited schedule because of it. But over the next couple of weeks we are out recruiting,” said Walker.
Theatres hope as movie goers start to return, staff will come back too. Opening day sales have been promising.
“We are very nearly sold out of almost everything for this evening already,” said Mcluckie.