Cineplex announces layoffs as theatres remain closed

Most of Ontario is in stage 3, but Cineplex said the company is "not in a position" to reopen immediately


Cineplex has announced 130 layoffs as the company’s theatres across Ontario remain closed.

Despite movie theatres outside Toronto being given the go-ahead to reopen in Stage 3 (with limits capping occupancy at 50 people), Cineplex said earlier this week the company was “not in a position” to reopen immediately.

Cineplex was set to be acquired by UK-based theatre chain Cineworld until the merger fell through last month. Cineplex is now suing Cineworld for $2.18 billion, claiming Cineworld breached contractual obligations in the deal.

“COVID-19 and termination of the Cineworld transaction have had a significant impact on our company,” Cineplex representative Sarah Van Lange told NOW.

“As a result, we had to make the difficult decision to scale back our resources and reduce the size of our full-time workforce. The changes we put in place impacted just over 130 teammates in Canada and the United States, which includes senior executive retirements and departures over the coming months.”

Van Lange added that in the short- and medium-term future, the company was “focusing on a smaller number of projects and priorities supported by a sustainable financial model.”

“While we can’t predict the future of the pandemic or the impact it will continue too have on our business in the months to come, we believe that we will come out of these times stronger. We are one of Canada’s leading entertainment and media companies, and we are taking steps to stay that way.”

Will Toronto cinemas reopen?

The province’s stage 3 guidelines limit movie theatres to having 50 patrons at a time, even in a multiplex. The occupancy limit does not include staff.

The government has yet to release sector-specific guidelines for movie theatres.

Though 24 regions – not including the Greater Toronto Area – moved into stage 3 on Friday, Cineplex is not yet ready to reopen cinemas anywhere in the province.

“We are still reviewing what’s being proposed by the province, so as a result we aren’t in a position to open our theatres in Ontario on Friday,” Cineplex spokesperson Katie Rankin told NOW. “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.”

Toronto could move into stage 3 as early as July 24.

Reps for Hot Docs and TIFF told NOW that they will assess reopening Toronto theatres after the city gets a greenlight to enter stage 3.

“We’re monitoring the situation and preparing ourselves for the eventual reopening, but will make the decision based on the circumstances at the time, taking into account our staff and audience’s comfort and safety concerns,” a rep for Hot Docs Cinema told NOW.

East end rep cinema the Fox, which has one screen, plans to reopen when Toronto moves into stage 3 – or “shortly afterwards.”

“With social distancing we will be able to open with a reduced capacity that, depending on group size, will result in 24-50 people onsite per showtime,” said owner Daniel Demois. “Seating will be assigned to ensure proper distancing, which is calculated by our point of sale.”

The Fox will also use floor markings in the lobby and washrooms and the outdoor box office will reopen so people line up outside. Other measures include frequent cleaning and sanitizing, airing out the theatre after each screening and mandatory face masks – except when eating. Guests will be encouraged to pre-purchase tickets.

“Programming-wise we will be screening more repertory titles than is typical, as there is a shortage of new releases,” he added.

With files from Kevin Ritchie and Norman Wilner

@nowtoronto

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