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Canadian movie theaters are set for a staggered reopening amid the omicron outbreak, but cinema chain operators in Ontario face continuing restrictions on food and beverage sales as Hollywood flicks return to the big screen.
The latest cinema closures in the provinces of Quebec and Ontario followed local health advisors tightening restrictions for COVID-19 hot spots, which includes Toronto and Montreal, where the number of virus cases surged amid the omicron outbreak.
Cineplex, Canada’s largest cinema operator, welcomed Ontario theaters being able to reopen on Jan. 31 with capacity restrictions, while questioning why patrons as yet will not be able to purchase and consume popcorn and fizzy drinks in its theaters.
“Popcorn and the movies go hand-in-hand so the continued restrictions on food and beverage sales at our theatres is disappointing. We’ll keep our poppers warm so we are ready for when these unwarranted restrictions lift,” Ellis Jacob, president and CEO of Cineplex, said in a statement obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.
But a day later on Jan. 27, the Ontario provincial government gave a greenlight to popcorn consumption after being lobbied by Cineplex and rival exhibitors. “Movies and popcorn go hand-in-hand and we are so happy that our guests in Ontario will be able to enjoy the full big screen experience when our theaters reopen on Monday,” Cineplex spokesperson Sarah Van Lange said in a statement.
Exhibitors insist they have taken exhaustive measures to ensure the safety of moviegoers in their theaters. But health authorities defended the initial ban on food and drink sales in cinema auditoriums to ensure patrons wear masks throughout the screening of films as an added measure to prevent COVID-19 virus transmission.
Bell Lightbox, the year-round home in Toronto for the Toronto Film Festival, announced it will reopen on Feb. 3, with 50 percent seating capacity. “Masks are mandatory for all staff, visitors and guests at TIFF Bell Lightbox and proof of vaccination is required to enter the building,” the Toronto Film Festival, which has the 5-theater complex as its year-round home, said in a release.
Bell Lightbox will reopen with an exclusive 70mm run of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza, followed on February 11 by The Worst Person in the World, the finale in Joachim Trier’s Oslo Trilogy.
Elsewhere, movie theaters in Quebec have been given a greenlight to reopen on Feb. 7 after that Canadian province also took measures to crack down on a dramatic spike in COVID-19 infection cases due to the emergence of the omicron variant. The Quebec government has also set a seating capacity of 50 percent, to a maximum of 500 people.
Canadians attending the local multiplex will have to continue showing proof of vaccinations to enter theaters.
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