Ontario Loosens Stage 3 Theatre Occupancy Limits

Up to 50 people can occupy individual theatres under the new guidelines
Ontario Loosens Stage 3 Theatre Occupancy Limits
After Cineplex made a big stink about the economic viability of Ontario's Stage 3 reopening plan earlier this month, government officials have amended the guidelines specific to theatres in order to allow occupancy of up to 50 people per auditorium, up from the original 50 people per building.

Though this move doesn't yet signal the full return to business for theatre giants like Cineplex, it does mark a significant increase in the number of screens (and therefore, films) that can operate during a given business day. These amendments do not affect the current health recommendations for physically-distanced seating, strict hygiene and sanitization routines and staggering screening times to avoid crowding.

Cineplex chief operating officer Dan McGrath had previously complained that the unamended guidelines would see the Canadian chain "operating at a loss," arguing to increase occupancy limits "in order to allow us to, at least, be profitable."

Today, Ontario Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries Lisa MacLeod announced in a tweet (seen below) that the new guideline for theatres will take effect immediately for "health zones" that have already entered Stage 3. Her announcement follows Premier Doug Ford's plan to move all regions of Ontario into Stage 3. 

"We have made tremendous progress that allows us to return to something a little closer to our normal lives this summer, but we are not out of the woods yet," Ford said in a release yesterday (July 29). "This virus is still among us and we have to be extra cautious to avoid sparking a surge or an outbreak. I strongly urge everyone to continue following public health protocols."

In mid-July, most regions of Ontario entered Stage 3, a phase that loosened COVID-19 restrictions on bars, restaurants and more. Toronto and Peel's "health zones," still in Stage 2, but are expected to join the rest of the province tomorrow (July 31) at midnight.

During the height of the pandemic, Cineplex was forced to close 165 locations across the country. 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.