PEI

Full capacity at City Cinema 'a weird thing to get used to'

City Cinema, Charlottetown’s independent movie venue, is hoping the darkest days of the pandemic are behind it and is looking toward the future.

‘Our first week we really had to educate our patrons’

The P.E.I. Vax Pass has fully opened City Cinema, says Mary-Helen McLeese. (Charlottetown Film Society)

City Cinema, Charlottetown's independent movie venue, is hoping the darkest days of the pandemic are behind it and is looking toward the future.

In the spring of 2020 City Cinema, like other theatres, had to close entirely. When it did reopen it was at just under half capacity, opening just 31 of its 70 seats.

"We were very fortunate, though. The community was really supportive during that time," Mary-Helen McLeese, executive director of the Charlottetown Film Society, which operates City Cinema, told Island Morning host Laura Chapin.

"[We] were limping along."

But with assistance from government for rent and staff, City Cinema has made it to this point without running into debt.

Back to a full house

On Oct. 5, with the introduction of the P.E.I. Vax Pass, public health restrictions on capacity at the theatre were lifted.

Everyone entering the theatre has to show proof of vaccination. McLeese said they were aware a full house might be a bit of a shock for some cinema-goers.

We had multiple screenings, lots of people coming to the cinema.— Mary-Hellen McLeese

"Our first week we really had to educate our patrons as they're walking through the door to let them know, just so you're aware, you might be sitting beside somebody again," she said.

"It's a weird thing to get used to. I think people are getting used to it, but for the first week or so it was really odd."

The timing of the opening allowed by the Vax Pass was fortuitous for City Cinema, coming just before the Charlottetown Film Festival.

"We had multiple screenings, lots of people coming to the cinema and also virtually," said McLeese.

"That was a really great boost for us."

Hope from Telefilm

While City Cinema scraped by during the pandemic, it did not leave any money for capital improvements, which is a problem at the best of times.

Some of the cinema's equipment is 25 years old. The projector is obsolete. Fortunately they have a second one on hand that they can scavenge for parts.

There is hope, however, for some money to replace some of that equipment. Telefilm Canada recently expanded its scope to aim funding at independent cinemas to ensure that Canadian films are not just made but also shown.

City Cinema has submitted an application for a Telefilm grant, worth up to $30,000, with an eye on replacing some of its older equipment.

With files from Laura Chapin

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now