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Cineplex, the fifth-largest movie theatre chain in North America and largest circuit in Canada, has reopened all locations after a long pandemic-era lockdown.
“We opened at 10:30 this morning at theaters like Varsity and just before that we were closing in on 100,000 tickets sold in Ontario,” Ellis Jacob, president and CEO of Cineplex, told The Hollywood Reporter on Friday about the first weekend performance of his theaters in Canada’s largest entertainment market.
The Canadian chain first shuttered its countrywide circuit of 161 theaters in March 2020, marking the biggest box office disruption ever for Cineplex, before its chain of theaters reopened for the first time in August last year. But soon afterwards, Cineplex had to begin closing its theaters yet again at the direction of public health authorities in individual provinces amid COVID-19 infection surges.
Now as the pandemic eases and over half of Canadians who are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine have been fully vaccinated, Cineplex has been able to finally open the doors at its theaters in Ontario, the country’s largest market, after a 9-month shutdown, to complete a countrywide reopening.
Ontario theaters will greet returning patrons with enhanced safety and cleaning measures and a 50 percent capacity to a maximum of 1000 guests per multiplex. And Cineplex customers will wear masks when in lobbies and in theaters, except when they want to eat or drink.
The reopening of Cineplex’s entire circuit, including out-of-home entertainment venues, coincides with the major studios bringing titles like Black Widow, F9 The Fast Saga, Space Jam: A New Legacy, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, A Quiet Place Part II, The Forever Purge and The Boss Baby: Family Business to the North American multiplex.
“People are tired of being in their homes and on their couches, their cell phones ringing and their kids running around. These are movies people have been waiting to see on the big screen and with big sound,” Jacob said.
In Canada, Marvel’s Black Widow is being released both in theaters and on the Disney+ streaming service as a premium video on-demand title. Jacob, who is also chairman of the National Association of Theatre Owners, noted the industry discussion around the hybrid streaming/box office debut of Black Widow, before adding the first breakdown on theatrical tickets sold in Canada for the female-led superhero pic starring Scarlett Johannson won’t be available before Saturday.
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