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Movie theatres are starting to reopen — but are they safe?

Click to play video '‘It’s a treat to go to a movie!’: Calgarians cautiously heading back to theatres as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted' ‘It’s a treat to go to a movie!’: Calgarians cautiously heading back to theatres as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted
WATCH: Calgary movie theatres are gradually reopening their doors, facing major challenges after being shut down for the past three months. – Jun 15, 2020

Cineplex plans to gradually reopen movie theatres later this month after closing all 146 locations nationwide in mid-March due to the novel coronavirus.

In a press release last weekend, the largest movie theatre company in Canada said it hopes to begin showing movies in six Alberta locations on June 26.

If governments and health authorities allow, Cineplex locations in other provinces will start to reopen on July 3.

Click to play video 'Landmark Cinemas reopens 3 Calgary theaters on June 26' Landmark Cinemas reopens 3 Calgary theaters on June 26
Landmark Cinemas reopens 3 Calgary theaters on June 26 – Jun 26, 2020

READ MORE: U.K. company Cineworld scraps $2.8B deal to take over Cineplex

“Cineplex has carefully reexamined all of its buildings and processes, so that when its theatres and entertainment venues reopen, it will have implemented an industry-leading program with end-to-end health and safety protocols,” reads the statement.

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When theatres begin to reopen, a number of health measures will be in place in an attempt to keep movie-goers safe from COVID-19.

This includes reserved seating to maintain physical distancing — a minimum of two metres between guests, as well as staggered showtimes to reduce the number of people in shared areas like lobbies, restaurants and bathrooms at the same time.

Click to play video '‘It’s a treat to go to a movie!’: Calgarians cautiously heading back to theatres as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted' ‘It’s a treat to go to a movie!’: Calgarians cautiously heading back to theatres as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted
‘It’s a treat to go to a movie!’: Calgarians cautiously heading back to theatres as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted – Jun 15, 2020

In the meantime, the VIP sections of Cineplex theatres featuring larger seats and in-seat food and beverage service will remain closed.

The company also announced its Rec Room locations — which feature arcade games, bars and dining options — will reopen in Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg this week.

It’s not entirely clear how many new blockbusters will show on screens, given the slow trickle of movies out of Hollywood due to the virus.

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READ MORE: Coronavirus: Enderby’s Starlight Drive-In opens during pandemic for cinema under the stars

Film studios and distributors put a stop to production on major motion pictures in March, when cinemas around the world were forced to close temporarily.

Warner Bros. recently pushed Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” one of few big summer movies still on the schedule, back two weeks to July 31, and postponed “Wonder Woman 1984” from August until the fall.

Other studios have pushed some of their biggest titles into next year, while Universal became the most notable distributor to experiment with at-home rental premieres designed to entice isolated viewers. The move has rankled movie exhibitors who consider it an attack on their already suffering business model.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Vaudreuil-Dorion announces plans to create a drive-in theatre for residents' Coronavirus: Vaudreuil-Dorion announces plans to create a drive-in theatre for residents
Coronavirus: Vaudreuil-Dorion announces plans to create a drive-in theatre for residents – May 26, 2020

Since indoor theatres closed, there’s been a resurgence of outdoor drive-in theatres across Canada.

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“I believe it is going to be a great summer for drive-ins not only in Canada but North America,” Don Monahan, owner of the Sussex Campground and Drive-in in Sussex, N.B., previously told Global News.

He said that every night over the May long weekend 250 cars filled with families eager to get out of the house showed up to take in the movies.

Are cinemas safe?

Large gatherings are still prohibited in several provinces, and infectious disease experts worry about what could happen when several people are together in an enclosed, indoor space for a prolonged period of time.

READ MORE: Restaurants are set to reopen, but your meal will come with a side of COVID-19 rules

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“The challenge is that, while we know very well how can be transmitted, we have a very limited grasp of the most important routes of transmission in real life,” Stan Houston, professor of medicine at the University of Alberta, previously told Global News.

“We, therefore, have only relatively imprecise ideas of what works to prevent transmission.”

READ MORE: Where do you go when the bathrooms are closed?

Colin Furness, a professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health in Toronto, is “definitely worried.”

“Any time you have a lot of people indoors in the same room, you’ve got a heightened risk. No question,” he previously told Global News.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus:  The show must go on? How the entertainment industry is dealing with the pandemic' Coronavirus: The show must go on? How the entertainment industry is dealing with the pandemic
Coronavirus: The show must go on? How the entertainment industry is dealing with the pandemic – May 24, 2020

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

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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. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.

In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

— With files from Global News’ Shelley Steeves & the Canadian Press

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Meghan.Collie@globalnews.ca