April 18th, 2024

Theatre reopening plans grind to a halt

By Lethbridge Herald on March 23, 2021.

Herald file photo by Ian Martens The Movie Mill, along with other theatres in Alberta, will remain closed for now as the province announced this week it would not yet be easing restrictions.

Al Beeber
Lethbridge Herald
Len Binning was gearing up to reopen his city movie theatre until the provincial government announced on Monday it wasn’t going to loosen COVID restrictions any further.
“I’m mad as hell, this is ridiculous,” said Binning on Tuesday.
“There has not been a single documented case (of COVID-19) in our industry,” said the operator of the Movie Mill.
When the Movie Mill was operating last year after the pandemic hit, it followed protocols to ensure patrons were safe.
In Binning’s opinion, theatres are a safe environment for people to gather in public with all patrons facing the same direction and wearing masks when they’re not enjoying snacks during a movie. Patrons are also kept separate with two spaces open between groups, couples or individuals on the same row and only every second row being occupied.
“It’s one of the safest environments available,” said Binning, whose industry began ramping up for reopening last Friday.
Major theatre chain Cineplex is also disappointed in the Alberta government’s decision.
In a Monday statement sent to media, president and CEO Ellis Jacob stated “we are extremely frustrated and disappointed with today’s announcement. This is devastating news to the more than 1,000 Albertans who make up our workforce across our 19 theatres in the province, all of whom are presently out of work. Despite being indisputably one of the safest forms of public gathering – safer than any restaurant, big box retailer, or other indoor venue – the government of Alberta continues to shutter movie theatres for reasons they either can’t justify or just won’t disclose.”
Binning said “we had fantastic protocols in place and will again when we reopen.
“We had a long arduous day Monday and my only hope is they will pull another ‘oops’. I do realize numbers look like they’re going up and I don’t believe we contribute to that,” added Binning.
According to Cineplex’ Jacob “the facts are very straight forward. There have been zero known cases of COVID-19 transmission in any movie theatre anywhere in the world.
“The seats face one direction and are reserved in advance in accordance with physical distancing requirements.
“The auditoriums are immense spaces with high ceilings, guest counts are controlled through showtime scheduling and patrons are encouraged to remain silent in addition to wearing masks. There is no business that better lends itself to controlling customer flow, ensuring physical distancing, and providing Albertans with a much needed entertainment experience, given the fact that they’ve been stuck inside for months.”
Binning also feels there is inequity in who is allowed to be open, pointing to one big box store with a parking lot always packed and ski hills.
“I’ve lost a lot of confidence in government.”
Binning has still managed to run his business with reduced staffing through a take-out business offering snacks and homemade soft drinks. His theatre also offers private theatre rentals for individual households. With roughly six to eight people allowed in one of the Movie Mill’s seven theatres for a fee of $20 per person (including snacks) to watch a film, that hardly covers the expenses that come with running theatres with occupancy between 100 and 190 people that the Movie Mill has.
“It seems the squeaky wheel has gotten the grease and obviously our industry isn’t squeaky enough. . .it seems the government is moving the goalposts constantly,” said Binning.
Theatres in Alberta shut down last March 17 and reopened on June 12 before being forced to close again on Dec. 12.
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Kal Itea

The Coviid pandemic is the real thing, we are not in a dress rehearsal.

John P Nightingale

I do however find it strange and quite annoying that bars are open, even with so called “restrictions” and theatres and especially learning facilities such as the museum , art gallery and the nature centre in the river valley are still closed.
The difference between these latter three and a bar setting are immense and I would suggest the bar scene is a high risk environment and thus COVID venture.