It has been two full months since movie theatres closed their doors due to the latest COVID-19 lockdown.
“I didn’t find this one too terribly long,” admits Ernie MacDonald, general manager of Cineplex Dartmouth Crossing cinemas. “I just found that this one was a real opportunity to be ready for the next opening, which we are so excited for.”
While COVID-19 restrictions continuing to loosen, MacDonald won’t have to wait long for his theatre to begin welcoming moviegoers back as Cineplex Cinemas has announced it will commence operations in all of Nova Scotia's multiplexes beginning Wednesday.
With four locations across HRM, Cineplex theatres will open with enhanced safety and cleaning measures, sanitizing stations and mandatory mask use.
“Reopening is a second chance at a first impression — that’s the position that we’re taking,” admits MacDonald. “We understand some people still have some trepidation about coming to the theatre. We’re cleaning constantly, we have the signage in place and all the COVID protocols are still in place.”
As well, Cineplex will be restricting guests to a maximum of 50 people per auditorium, but as MacDonald points out, most theatres won’t even meet that demand.
“With all the social distancing rules that we’ve put in place and so on, we’ve really only got about two or three theatres that might actually seat 50 — the rest are going to be lower than that by quite a margin,” says MacDonald, adding much of the building will be running around 25 percent capacity. “So this is a great time to come see a movie, there’s lots of room.”
While Cineplex realizes such reduced capacity will not generate profit-making revenue, MacDonald insists that the company is viewing the reopening opportunity in which they can reintroduce movie patrons and returning or new employees, and integrate changes and technology upgrades that have been implemented over the past few months.
“We look at this as a soft opening and a great chance to bring our staff back, get them warmed up,” adds MacDonald. “And hopefully as it gets deeper into the summer, the restrictions will ease and we’ll be able to welcome back more and more people, but we’ll be ready.”
MacDonald estimates that since March 2020 when cases of COVID-19 first showed up in Nova Scotia, Cineplex theatres have had their doors shut a total of 40 weeks. During that time, the chain turned to online movie rentals and home delivery of concessions, like popcorn and menu items, to help make up for lost revenue.
“Our delivery business has been the only revenue that we’ve brought in for the better part of 40 weeks over the course of the past year and a half,” adds MacDonald, noting the entertainment chain intends to continue providing the service into the future. “Hopefully some of the guests who have taken part in the delivery service will continue to partake in that when they aren’t coming to the movies.”
Cineplex has also announced that it will reopen its Playdium Dartmouth complex on June 25 to a limited capacity of 175 people. Based on the guidelines set out by Public Health, that means the 30,000 square foot amusement venue will be operating at 25 per cent capacity.
Atlantic Canada’s very first Playdium complex, the Dartmouth Crossing attraction only opened in February after an approximate six-month delay due to COVID-19.
“We recognize the new appreciation our guests have for the theatrical experience and we can’t wait to welcome them back to our theatres,” noted Cineplex executive director of communications Sarah Van Lange in a press release. “Nothing compares to the big screen and big sound that we’ve been missing for so long.”