Montreal

Quebec movie theatres are now allowed to reopen, but not all of them will

Just in time for March break, movie theatres in Quebec can reopen their doors. They will have to deal with several restrictions, but many owners are still jumping at the chance. The head of one of the largest cinema chains in Quebec isn't one of them.

'The government support program is insulting', says head of Cinemas Guzzo

Movie theatres in Quebec's red zones are allowed to reopen, but they can't sell food and popcorn. (Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press)

Indoor rinks, pools and cinemas in the province's red zones are allowed to reopen as of Friday, as the province eases some restrictions in time for March break.

Some cinema owners will keep their businesses closed, believing it makes no financial sense to reopen given the operating limits imposed by the Quebec government.

Cinemas are not allowed to sell food and drinks — a decision that sparked major pushback from the industry, and prompted the premier to offer continued access to the province's emergency aid programs as compensation for their losses.

The offer was far from satisfying for Vincenzo Guzzo, the CEO of Cinemas Guzzo, which operates 10 theatres in the Montreal area. 

"The government support program is insulting," Guzzo said. "You haven't even re-gifted a gift, you took the same gift you gave me last week, you took it back, you repackaged it, and now gave it to me for St. Valentine's Day.''

Business will also be limited by reduced capacity to ensure physical distancing as well as the province's curfews — 8 p.m. for most of Quebec, and 9:30 p.m. in the orange zones — but according to Guzzo, even if the province upped its offer, he would reject it based on principle.

"There's no way I will be accused of taking public money to open my theatres," he said. "I don't want the money, I don't want popcorn money ... I want to sell popcorn.''

Mario Fortin, however, is relishing the opportunity to bring in customers, even if screening times will be limited by an overnight curfew that starts at 8 p.m. in red zones.

"We've been ready for months," said Fortin, who owns Cinéma du Parc as well as Cinéma Beaubien in Montreal. "For months, we've been saying that cinemas are places that are relatively safe, so we want to prove it."

Fortin says he's already sold 1,000 tickets for next week, which also includes reducing capacity to ensure physical distancing, reopening is well worth it.

"We can manage," he said. "The break-even point is relatively easy to attain."

Movie theatres will also need to reduce capacity to ensure physical distancing, and make sure their screening times don't overlap with the province's curfews. (Rebecca Blackwell/Associated Press)

Respect the rules, health minister warns

Concerns about the spread of the coronavirus variants and another surge of cases didn't stop the province from easing restrictions and allowing certain businesses to reopen.

The government has said it wants to give families options to entertain their children while they're away from school.

Outdoor gatherings of up to eight people, as opposed to four, are also now allowed in red zones.

In addition to the province's curfews, the ban on private gatherings is still in place.

With people in the province's general population already getting COVID-19 vaccines, the health minister is asking Quebecers to not get carried away during March break.

"Let's make sure that we follow the rules because we are one month away from having a very high number of vaccines," Health Minister Christian Dubé said during Thursday's news conference.

The government is expecting at least 600,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines over the next four weeks.

There will not be any roadblocks preventing Quebecers from travelling to different regions, but the premier said he's asked police to keep an eye on hotels and cottages to make sure people aren't gathering illegally.

With files from Radio-Canada and The Canadian Press

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