Lights, camera, COVID-19! Maritimers' movie-watching habits amid pandemic
HALIFAX -- Straight-to-DVD movies used to be a sign of a flop, but now they're a sign of the times, with many films being released to streaming platforms versus traditional theatres. Amid COVID-19, viewers, producers, and theatres are all trying to adapt during a restrictive pandemic.
A Cineplex Cinemas location in Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia, which reopened on Friday, is one of many theatres across Canada to recently reopen. Adhering to pandemic protocols, the theatre as adopted many changes, including rigorous cleaning and assigned seating for viewers.
"I think we're gonna have a lot of room," said Peter MacDonald, a parent taking his child to see a movie. "I think it will be pretty comfortable."
Following a $99 million second-quarter loss, Cineplex Cinemas reopened 41 more theatres nationwide on Friday, including five on the East Coast.
"We had to re-evaluate our protocols based on each jurisdiction we're operating with," says Cineplex Cinemas senior vice president of national operations, Daniel Seguin. "Because each municipality came back with different requirements."
Theatres are hoping physical distancing measures, cleaning protocols, and new blockbuster movies will turn their economic fortunes around for the better.
Films, such as the highly anticipated movie TENET, are taking a chance on big-screen releases.
"Movie theatres, in our own perspective, are not going anywhere," says Seguin.
However, regardless of movie theatres' efforts, more people are turning to the growing number of streaming services to get their film fix. Disney recently decided to release its live-action version of Mulan on its streaming service, Disney+, before theatres.
FIN: Atlantic International Film Festival executive director, Wayne Carter, loves movies – but the pandemic has meant a major shift for the annual event.
"We decided, back at the beginning of June, that the only safe thing to do this year was to decide to go online and put our efforts into making it the best it could possibly be," says Carter.
The 2020 instalment of the FIN: Atlantic International Film Festival will not feature in-person galas or screenings. Instead, FIN: Stream will see the festival's selection of curated films stream online in a lineup, to be announced on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, drive-in theatres, such as Pop Up Cinema, which allows filmgoers to 'bubble' together in their own vehicles, have never been busier.
Pop Up Cinema Project manager, Aaron Peck, says while business is brisk, he hopes to see a movie in a theatre someday.
"I hope that the day returns that we can sit in the cinema and watch the lights go down – munching your popcorn and see that big thing," says Peck.
And others remain hopeful as well.
"It's going to be the world before COVID-19, and the world after COVID-19," says Carter.
A world in which the pandemic has delivered more plot twists than any Hollywood film.