VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – In just a few weeks, British Columbians will be allowed to go to a movie theatre. But the CEO of Landmark Cinemas isn’t happy about the industry’s place in B.C.’s plan to re-open things that were shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bill Walker says it’s unclear why they still have to wait until June when people can already eat with friends at a restaurant or have friends over.
“We just don’t understand why we continue to be categorized as a higher risk venue when throughout this pandemic, there has not been one case of spread linked to a movie theatre — not even suspected transmission through a movie theatre,” he claimed.
The re-opening of movie theatres is in the second stage of B.C.’s four-stage re-opening plan. If all goes to plan, life would be nearly back to pre-pandemic times by September.
Walker doesn’t feel the current restrictions make sense.
“I can have an indoor household gathering this weekend, but I can’t go to a movie theatre with my family,” he said, pointing out when people catch a flick, they generally face in one direction and don’t talk.
“Frankly, we believe we should be a part of the solution, in the sense that we provide a safe venue … to give [people] some sense of normalcy,” Walker added.
However, he says he is pleased to have some certainty and a path forward. Walker says the closure of movie theatres has been devastating.
“We’ve obviously had to lay off significant numbers of employees,” he said. “That’s certainly been tough on them and tough on us, as a business, to retain talent. Also, there’s the capital loss, to continue to stay here and fight, and try to be ready to open when we’re given permission. It’s certainly been a challenge for us.”
The earliest movie theatres will be allowed to re-open is June 15. Walker believes theatres will be limited to 50 people per movie showing.
He adds his company would need a week or two to recall and retrain staff before they would be ready to open for business again.
With files from Tim James