Cineplex, the largest theater chain in Canada, is preparing to temporarily shutter its Ontario auditoriums in response to a government mandate limiting indoor business to help curb the spread of omicron.
The theater chain said that all 67 of its theaters in Ontario will close beginning Wednesday, January 5th, adding that the cinemas will reopen “as soon as we are allowed.” The measure comes as Ontario enacts restrictions on schools, dining, and entertainment venues to prevent what Ontario Premier Doug Ford characterized during a Monday news briefing as “a tsunami of new cases in the days and weeks ahead.”
“To make it as easy as possible, we have already begun processing ticket refunds back to our guests’ original method of payment. There is no need for guests to contact our Guest Services or their local theatre team for a refund,” the theater chain said in a statement this week. “We appreciate your understanding and look forward to welcoming guests back soon.”
Similar measures haven’t taken place on a wide scale in the US, and theaters haven’t suggested they’re going to make changes. It’s also worth noting that closures in Ontario were a result of a wider government initiative rather than an elective measure. President Joe Biden said in December that the US had no plans to issue lockdown orders, adding that with 2 million Americans fully vaccinated, “We’re prepared. We know more. We just have to stay focused. So that’s where we stand.”
“We’re making sure that COVID-19 no longer closes businesses or schools,” the president said during the December 21st speech. “Last week, the federal court reinstated my administration’s vaccination-or-test — the vaccination-or-test rule for businesses with more than 100 employees.”
Last month, many of the nation’s largest theaters celebrated pandemic box office records with the explosive debut of Spider-Man: No Way Home even as COVID-19 cases continued to spike.
However, multiple high-profile film and TV events have been impacted by the spread of omicron. Disney announced last month that a The Book of Boba Fett fan event scheduled for this week would be postponed until February 8th, closer to the series finale. Additionally, a red carpet event for James Gunn’s HBO Max title Peacemaker has been canceled as a precautionary measure.
The closures in Ontario come just weeks after the theater chain told The Verge in a statement that the majority of its theaters in Ontario would begin operating at 50 percent capacity in accordance with government directives. Cineplex previously announced closures for all 17 of its theaters in Quebec on December 20th.