Canadian Movie Theaters Start to Reopen With Social Distancing Guidelines

Cineplex Cinemas - H - 2020

Movie theaters in British Columbia and Alberta will be the first countrywide to relaunch with limited seating capacity on Friday.

Canadian cinemas, shut down since mid-March by the coronavirus spread, have slowly begun to reopen in British Columbia and Alberta.

On June 12, the Hollywood Cinemas 3 chain in suburban Vancouver on Canada's west coast will reopen three indie theaters after receiving a green light from WorkSafe BC, a government workplace safety agency, and local health authorities. The circuit will relaunch with screenings of Trolls World Tour and the 1982 classic E.T. The Extra-Terrestial, and a maximum of 50 seats sold per auditorium.

"We will be open daily with limited seating per show time to accommodate physical distancing. … Our staff is following all government protocols that our company has put forth for everyone's safety," reads a statement on Hollywood Cinemas 3's website. The neighboring province of Alberta has also allowed movie theaters to reopen with a maximum 100 patrons per auditorium from Friday.

Canyon Meadows Cinemas in Calgary also indicated it will reopen June 12. On Thursday, Bill Walker, CEO of Landmark Cinemas, which is based in Calgary, Alberta, told THR he welcomed the "certainty" of a government green light.

But, he added, Landmark, which operates 45 theaters with 317 screens across Canada, needed time to recall furloughed staff in Alberta and train them in the use of stringent hygiene measures, including PPE and plexiglass as safety measures. Walker added his first six Alberta theaters will reopen on June 26 and the rest of his provincial circuit should be fully operational by July 3.

"You just can't flip on that switch. There's a bit of time needed to scale up," he explained.

While also welcoming the theater relaunch green lights in Alberta and B.C., exhibition giant Cineplex is not yet indicating when it will reopen its theaters where allowed in western Canada.

"While we are certainly excited for the day our operations can resume, our top priority has always been the health and safety of our employees and guests and ensuring that their time with us is safe, comfortable and welcoming," Cineplex said in a statement to THR.

Cineplex — which operates 1,693 theatre auditoriums across Canada — and smaller circuits are expected to reopen screens in a few weeks, pending provincial go-aheads, in time to screen Warner Bros.’ Christopher Nolan’s Tenet on July 17 and Disney’s Mulan on July 24.