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Cineplex to keep theatres closed for the foreseeable future

Cineplex theatre at Yonge and Eglinton in Toronto on Monday December 16, 2019. Cineplex Inc.
Cineplex theatre at Yonge and Eglinton in Toronto on Monday December 16, 2019. Cineplex Inc. Aaron Vincent Elkaim/CP

Canada’s largest movie exhibitor, Cineplex Inc., will keep its doors closed nationwide into the foreseeable future amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

After initially setting an April 2 timeline to consider reopening 165 theatres across the chain, a representative for Cineplex told The Canadian Press the company will instead turn to government and public health authorities for any further guidance on when it’s safe to reopen.

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The decision comes as provinces enact their own mandatory closures of non-essential business under varying or uncertain timelines.

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Cineplex represents about 75 per cent of the Canadian film exhibitor market across the country.

The company is also dealing with other factors out of its control, including a dearth of potential blockbusters from Hollywood studios into the late summer, and a lingering takeover that’s now in question.

Over the past few weeks, most major films have been pulled from the lucrative summer movie season. Among the changes, Sony bumped Ghostbusters: Afterlife to next March while Disney pulled Marvel blockbuster Black Widow from the schedule without setting a new release date.

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‘Black Widow’ trailer

That puts Cineplex in a tough spot in the midst of a $2.8-billion acquisition by Cineworld PLC, which is still subject to various conditions, including Investment Canada Act approval, that must be met by June 30.

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Cineplex acknowledged in mid-March that certain conditions of the acquisition still haven’t been reached, and that COVID-19, and government reactions, have made “business planning uncertain for the exhibition and location-based entertainment industries.”

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One of the takeover conditions is that Cineplex keeps its debt below $725 million, a challenge that could prove harder as it continues to pay rent, staff and various other operational expenses amid the closures.

“Cineplex will continue to take our lead from government and public health authorities, and we will reopen our theatres and entertainment venues across Canada when they tell us it is safe to do so,” said Cineplex spokeswoman Sarah Van Lange in a statement.

Cineplex also operates entertainment complexes the Rec Room and Playdium which it closed on March 16 along with its theatres.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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