Cineplex responds to temporary cinema closures in Ontario

CEO Ellis Jacob says there has been no evidence of COVID-19 spread at its theatres.

Cineplex president and CEO Ellis Jacob has confirmed Cineplex will close 22 of its 68 theatres in Ontario in accordance to new restrictions announced from the provincial government.

As of midnight tomorrow (Oct. 10), cinemas in Toronto, Ottawa and Peel Region will be closed for 28 days as part of a move back to a modified stage two in response to a jump in positive COVID-19 cases in the province. Landmark Cinemas, which has 10 theatres in Ontario, will also be impacted by the temporary closures. Other facilities impacted include gyms and fitness centres, performing arts centre and venues, casinos, bingo halls, and more.

Canada’s most populous province reached a record number of single-day positive cases at 939 cases, with 336 new cases in Toronto, 150 in Peel and 126 in Ottawa.

“We are very disappointed with the government’s decision to close our theatres,” said Jacob, in a statement. “We feel that these forced closures, given our proven track record, are excessive and do not take into account our teams’ efforts, of which we are very proud… Our theatres have been open in Ontario since July 3 and in those 98 days of welcoming back movie-lovers, we have had zero cases of COVID-19 traced back to our operations.”

Cineplex opened all 164 of its theatres on Aug. 21 ahead of the release of the Christopher Nolan film Tenet, and has reported more than 1.5 million tickets sold since reopening. While there have been four reports of Cineplex employees at separate locations testing positive for COVID-19, the company says no community spread has been linked to its theatres.

The company took a 95% hit in revenue in its fiscal 2020 Q2 as a result of cinema closures that began in mid-March. Its stock price is down 85% in 2020,  plunging to below $5 when U.K.-based Cineworld closed theatres in the U.S. and U.K. earlier this month.

Ontario isn’t the first province to enact these measures as a result of the second wave. Quebec closed down its theatres for 28 days beginning on Oct. 1, which closed at least a dozen Cineplex theatres. The closures also impacted Festival du nouveau cinema’s plans for physical screenings during its Oct. 7 to 18 run.