On Friday, two cinemas here in Nova Scotia reopened — the Scotiabank Theatre in Bayers Lake, and Dartmouth Crossing — and on Saturday I went to the movies.
Things are a little different at the multiplex in a time of pandemic. You’ll see a lot of signs with information about contactless ticketing, about making your visit safe, with a catalogue of measures aimed at just that: The employees are all masked, with mask-wearing encouraged for guests— apparently there are masks available for audiences at the theatre, though I didn’t see any. I only saw a few movie-goers, and they were not wearing them.
Cleaning and sanitizing has apparently been stepped up, and physical distancing is maintained in the auditorium through reserved, staggered seating, and fewer tickets sold.
I wish I’d seen the inside of the auditorium, but when I arrived at 7:15pm my entertainment choice for the evening, My Spy, was sold out. That surprised me since there were few cars in the parking lot, and almost no one in the foyer.
It turns out they’re only selling 25 tickets per screening. Won’t take long to sell out with those limits. The cinema chain is recommending purchasing tickets through the Cineplex App online in advance, and tickets are only $5, $2.99 on Tuesdays.
The possibilities at Dartmouth Crossing on Saturday evening were Sonic The Hedgehog (at 6:15pm), My Spy (at 7:15pm), The Way Back (at 7:45pm, also sold out by the time I got there), Jumanji: The Next Level (at 8:45pm), Bloodshot (at 9pm), 1917 (at 9:15pm), and The Invisible Man (at 9:45pm). Note the single evening screenings and the staggered start times, to minimize crowding in both the auditorium and foyer and maximize auditorium cleaning time.
These are all movies that were in cinemas in February and March before the shutdown, and have been available on Video On Demand for some time — My Spy is actually on Amazon Prime.
Consider this a soft opening. I think the exhibitor’s plan is to gradually get audiences comfortable with the idea of going to the movies again, then lure them in with brand new Hollywood product arriving in late July and early August, provided everything else, including rates of infection, remains low. I wouldn’t expect these ticket prices to.
On my way out, I also noticed the posters from earlier this year hadn’t yet been replaced. The sun- and rain-bleached imagery gives the cinema a real post-apocalyptic vibe. Hopefully, one day, we’ll see all the movies they’re promoting.