The movie theatre experience is back, Manitoba — at least for those who have had two doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
The province announced Wednesday that fully vaccinated Manitobans will be allowed to return to movie theatres, as well as museums and casinos under the province’s latest COVID-19 public health orders.
Theatres will be allowed to open at 50 per cent capacity, which is a step in the right direction, according to the president of Landmark Cinemas, although he told 680 CJOB he has some concerns about the nuances of the regulations.
Bill Walker said while the company is excited to reopen its theatres, the fully-vaccinated ruling means theatres in communities with low vaccination rates likely won’t be able to open at all.
“You have to realize in Winkler, for example, it’s a 20 per cent vaccination rate,” said Walker. “In Winkler, we won’t be able to open a theatre for that percentage of the population.
“We’re happy to open — we’re going to get movies on the screen, and we have a 75 per cent vaccination rate of those that are eligible, so we think there’s absolutely going to be enough people at Grant Park, in Winnipeg, and it’s going to be fantastic.
“Where we get frustrated is that there are venues that are open without the need to have mandatory vaccinations for patrons to arrive that are demonstrably higher-risk than theatres.”
Walker said he feels like theatres are being used as a way to incentivize Manitobans to get vaccinated — something Landmark supports — but the same rule isn’t being applied in other provinces.
Owners of theatres and other performance venues in Quebec are open to all patrons, provided one empty seat is between audience members from different households.
Ontario’s new COVID-19 rules say cinemas can operate at a maximum capacity of 50 per cent inside each auditorium and a cap of 1,000 people within the entire building.
“You can’t help but feel it’s a bit penalizing for theatres rather than other venues,” Walker said.
“We shouldn’t need to impose further restrictions on theatres. What is it that Manitoba knows that other provinces haven’t that says theatres are higher risk?”
On Wednesday, Premier Brian Pallister called the announcement of theatres and museums reopening a “good news day”.
“We are taking another step today … towards a reopened Manitoba,” he said. “This is a positive step today.
“Thanks to the incredible efforts of Manitoba’s vaccine team and Manitobans’ willingness to roll up their sleeves – not once, but twice – we are able to move forward earlier than anticipated with fewer restrictions on our economy and our communities.”