Edmonton’s Metro Cinema launches online screenings through COVID-19 closure

Edmonton's Metro Cinema is launching an online screening program amid COVID-19 closures. Les Knight / Global News

Edmonton’s Metro Cinema has launched an online screening program, in hopes of keeping arts cinema alive in a world without movie theatres.

The non-profit theatre is offering virtual screenings on its website, where people can purchase a ticket that essentially gives them access to an online rental. The screening fees are split between the distributors and the metro.

“Community support is really more important now than ever,” Dan Smith, the executive director of Metro Cinema, said.

“We’re facing a pretty dire time ahead and hoping to just kind of get through it with everybody.”

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The theatre currently has two screenings listed, but in the coming days will be adding more. The current online programming allows viewers to pay $12 for access to the film for five days.

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“We’re also looking into one-off event versions of this,” said Smith. “Where people can tune in for a shorter period of time, and it’s more of a screening event as opposed as something more prolonged.”

On March 17, the province declared a public health emergency due to COVID-19, and banned Albertans from public places like casinos, bingo halls, theatres, children’s play centres, recreation centres and arenas, science centres, museums and art galleries, community centres, fitness facilities, and entertainment facilities like movie theatres.

READ MORE: Cineplex to close all theatres across Canada in response to coronavirus spread

While the Metro Cinema had made its own decision to close on March 16, the not-for-profit theatre is hopeful it will be supported through the crisis.

“[The online program] hasn’t been quite as busy as our theatre would be, but people seem to be picking up to it,” said Smith.

The theatre is also running a donation campaign, and selling online passes and year-long memberships that will be activated once the provincial closures are lifted.

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“I think we’re kind of in the same boat as a lot of people: there’s only so long that one can weather this storm,” said Smith.

Metro Cinema operates out of the historic Garneau Theatre on 109 Street, which first opened in 1940. The theatre has operated under a variety of different names and companies since then, with Metro Cinema taking over in 2011.