By Sulz, Dave on March 18, 2020.
The Movie Mill in Lethbridge has joined the list of Canadian theatres closing their doors as part of precautions against the spread of COVID-19.
Leonard Binning, owner of the theatre on Mayor Magrath Drive South, said Monday the theatre would close at the end of the day and remain closed until further notice. The decision was reached following weekend conference calls with theatre operators from across the country.
Closure of The Movie Mill follows a similar action by Cineplex, which operates Galaxy Cinemas Lethbridge in Park Place Mall. Cineplex announced Monday in a statement from company president and CEO Ellis Jacob that Cineplex would close its entire circuit of 165 Canadian theatres effective Monday night through to April 2.
Binning said he’s not sure how long the closure of The Movie Mill will remain in effect. He noted Quebec operators were optimistic a period of 15 days could be sufficient “but I’ve heard eight to 12 weeks from other sources, so it’s really an unknown… I think it’s a guess on anybody’s part.”
He’s hoping for a shorter-term scenario “especially from a staff standpoint. Laying off 30 people is certainly the most difficult thing I’ve done.”
The Movie Mill itself will have ongoing expenses that will be difficult to manage with the theatre shuttered, particularly if it’s for an extended period.
“We’re hoping for three to four weeks tops, but we just don’t know.”
The decision to close the doors wasn’t made lightly, “and we changed our minds several times,” said Binning.
He noted the theatre had continued to operate during other emergency situations such as following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and during other health threats from SARS in 2003 and the H1N1 virus in 2009.
“Theatres are a beacon of hope for people, a refuge to go to escape the drama of regular life.”
Binning said it was likely just a matter of time before government would have mandated the closure of theatres anyway, even though theatre attendance had been down dramatically since the COVID-19 situation ramped up in Canada.
“It was certainly a logical decision on our part. It’s much better to err on the side of safety.”