Cineplex Urges Ontario Government to Loosen Stage 3 Occupancy Limits

Company executives claim the chain will be operating at a loss until restrictions are lifted
Cineplex Urges Ontario Government to Loosen Stage 3 Occupancy Limits
While Cineplex continues its legal battle with U.K. theatre chain Cineworld, the Canadian company has now voiced concerns about the Ontario government's Stage 3 reopening plan, suggesting that the plan's indoor gathering limits of 50 people will do harm to business.

Chief operating officer Dan McGrath argues that until Cineplex locations' individual auditoriums can hold at least 50 people — not just 50 people for the entire building — the company won't be able to sustain profits.

"We'd be operating at a loss," he said in a statement. "We need that capacity in order to allow us to, at least, be profitable."

While it likely would be possible for customers to maintain the mandatory two-metre distance within each auditorium under McGrath's proposed amendment, shared spaces like bathrooms and concession stands might be harder to keep safe.

As most of the province has already entered Stage 3 — 24 of the 34 "health zones" as of July 17 — much of the more heavily-populated southern regions, including Toronto, remain in Stage 2. While the next stage of the reopening plan does include a framework for theatres, the 50-person cap makes it difficult for big chains like Cineplex to fill their spaces adequately.

So far, Cineplex has reopened 36 of its 165 locations across the country, but its Ontario locations remain closed for the time being. Last month, the company detailed its coronavirus safety plan, which included new cleaning procedures, reduced-capacity seating and free masks — though the plan indicated that masks would not be mandatory for guests. 

Earlier this month, the company laid off over 130 employees as a result of the loss of business due to COVID-19.

Meanwhile, drive-in theatres and venues continue to pop up around the province as a result of fewer limitations on outdoor gatherings.