Cineplex looks to future following first full box office weekend since last fall

The chain's theatres opened across Canada this past weekend for the first time since October 2020.

Cineplex theatres unlocked their doors to movie-goers across the country this past weekend, marking the first time its theatres have opened nationally since October 2020.

The official announcement came after Manitoba allowed theatre films to roll on July 17, completing the opening from coast-to-coast.

The move to allow theatres to open is good news for Cineplex, whose Q1 revenue was down 85.4%, to $41.4 million from $282.8 million quarter-over-quarter. Those numbers can be traced to the constant closures resulting from the pandemic, which meant audience numbers were also down 96% quarter-over-quarter.

To cope, Cineplex has taken key “liquidity actions” including the $57 million sale-leaseback of its head office in Toronto and $250 million in Second Lien Secured Notes. It also ended its partnership with TimePlay and struck a deal with Torstar in which the company acquired the publishing and exclusive theatre distribution rights for Cineplex Magazine, to be rebranded Star Cineplex.

Cinephiles have since responded to the reopening, with nearly half a million guests snatching up a movie ticket this past weekend to see buzzy releases such as Black Widow, F9 The Fast Saga and Space Jam: A New Legacy. According to Cineplex it was the company’s busiest weekend since January 2020, two months before the pandemic forced businesses and schools to shut down.

“We are thrilled to finally have our theatre doors open across Canada and our busiest weekend since January 2020,” Ellis Jacob, president and CEO, Cineplex said in a release. “With nearly half a million guests this past weekend, it’s obvious that Canadians have missed the magic of the big screen and the escape of the movies, something Cineplex is happy to provide. We look forward to welcoming back even more of our guests to theatres across the country in the coming weeks to enjoy blockbuster movies together with family and friends.”

With strong American vaccination efforts underway, Ellis previously revealed Hollywood studios are finally confident enough to schedule backlogged but anticipated releases such as the upcoming James Bond film No Time to Die, Top Gun: Maverick, and The Suicide Squad.

Cineplex is currently operating under its VenueSafeTM standards, a set of protocols and procedures designed to keep guests and employees safe during the ongoing fight against coronavirus. VenueSafeTM includes things like reduced capacity, enhanced cleaning and reserved seating, and has been built out in conjunction with opening guidelines that vary from province-to-province (in Manitoba, all eligible guests need to be double-vaccinated, for example).

The protocols also extend to the games floor configurations at Playdium and The Rec Room venues to ensure proper physical distancing and clearly labelled safety standards.

“We recognize the new appreciation our guests have for the theatrical experience and we can’t wait to welcome them back to our theatres, as nothing compares to the big screen and big sound that we’ve been missing for so long,” said Sarah Van Lange, VP of communications, content marketing and social media, Cineplex. “We continue to prioritize health and safety measures to ensure that our theatres are a safe, relaxing, and inviting space for movie-lovers to escape with family and friends.”