Cineplex unveils first eight B.C. theatres to reopen this week

Metropolis at Metrotown sits empty during theatre closures aimed at fighting the COVID-19 pandemic | Rob Kruyt

What happened: Cineplex releases phased reopening plans for B.C. theatres

Why it matters: Reopening efforts come as province moves into phase three of economic restart

Canada’s largest theatre chain is slowly raising the curtains across B.C.

Cineplex Inc. (TSX:CGX) announced Tuesday (June 30) it was reopening eight of its movie theatres throughout the province beginning Friday.

Locations include Scotiabank Theatre Vancouver, Cineplex Cinemas Metropolis in Burnaby and Cineplex Cinemas Strawberry Hill in Surrey, among other locations in Richmond, Langley, Kelowna, Nanaimo and Victoria.

Cineplex’s latest quarterly financials, released Monday, reveal the company took a $178.4-million loss during the first quarter of 2020 as the pandemic forced the economy into lockdown.

U.K.-based cinema giant Cineworld PLC had announced plans to acquire Cineplex for $2.8 billion ahead of the pandemic but later reneged on the deal as the COVID-19 crisis unfolded.

Cineplex plans to reopen its remaining 16 B.C. theatres later in the month.

The move comes after independent B.C. theatres such as Hollywood 3 Cinemas PM Ltd. reopened four locations on June 12.

The theatres, located in Surrey, White Rock, Pitt Meadows and Duncan are now outfitted with an array of Plexiglas barriers and employees are required to wear personal protective equipment.

Cineplex, too, is instituting safety measures such as automatic reserved seating at all theatres to ensure physical distancing, reduced capacity within those theatres and enhanced cleaning practices.

But it will not require patrons to wear masks within the closed, indoor spaces of the theatres.

Meanwhile, Vancouver arthouse theatre and film institute The Cinematheque announced last week it will resume screenings at its Howe Street location beginning July 9 as part of a phased reopening.

The theatre plans to have a reduced capacity of 43 patrons or less depending on the seating configuration of each screening in an effort to ensure physical distancing.

Concessions items won’t be available immediately but will instead go on sale after the first week of screenings.

Seats will be sanitized after each screening.

The Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) won’t be moving forward with in-person screenings for its 39th edition set for September 24 to October 7.

Instead, it’s going virtual with a program of 100 feature films, shorts and panels to be made available online.

A new streaming platform, VIFF Connect, is being developed in partnership with Toronto’s CineSend to facilitate the festival’s programming.

The slate of films set to be showcased will be unveiled in early August with ticket sales launching later that same month.