Theatres are now open but attendance numbers are still down. (file photo)

Theatres are now open but attendance numbers are still down. (file photo)

Movie theatres have reopened but numbers are still not quite back to normal

‘The screen is big and the volume is loud and you’re free to truly escape’

On June 10, 2021, theatres were allowed to reopen including the Landmark Cinemas in Sylvan Lake.

Over the period of time since then the theatre has been doing well and with more movies coming out numbers will go back up, said CEO Bill Walker.

“We’re back doing over half, we’re still down about 50 per cent compared to the visitors we would have seen in the same time period in 2019 but that’s not unexpected. When we first reopened, capacity restrictions were in place and only 33 per cent of the capacity (was allowed) between the June 10 opening and July 1.”

Even without restrictions attendance could still be down due to people being able to stream and watch movies at home.

“We’ve always competed with good content in the home. The exclusive theatrical window is still there for many films right now as theatres reopen, but it’s not the same as it always was. Disney’s doing some different things with Disney+ but on those ones where you can rent it for a premium.”

Most of the studios are done with those now, said Walker.

“There is an exclusive theatrical window before it goes to a premium on demand window where you can choose to rent the movie at home for $30 in most Canadian situations or you can come see it with us. That sort of model of testing is still something many of the studios are working out with trial and error as they are trying to release things.

“It’s always been the idea that some would prefer to rent and watch a movie at home and are willing to pay the premium price or are willing to wait to get it later when it’s on streaming services or a lesser rental rate.

“There are also customers that absolutely prefer to see it in the theatre and get out of their house and do something with their friends or family which gives them the chance to experience it in a different format.”

Those two systems have co-existed for a really long time, said Walker.

“Looking at the numbers today, now that we are in our first week of operating without restrictions in Alberta, I think we are still a long way off from normal because there are still people who are not yet comfortable with going out to venues like theatres and restaurants yet.”

As a company, Landmark cinemas was lucky to be able to have what they needed to survive the pandemic, said Walker.

“We’ve lost tens of millions of dollars just to be here and be able to reopen, and now we are starting to work towards recovery.”

In almost every location theatres are re-hiring, said Walker.

“I can’t say specifically for Sylvan Lake but we have had to hire a lot of new staff.”

Currently, customers wanting to go to the theatre can watch Black Widow, Boss Baby: Family Business, or F9 The Fast Saga.

Just an individual going to a theatre with popcorn and a drink is what makes the movie experience much more memorable, said Walker.

“There’s something different about the way you connect with the content and the way you can turn off your mind and just focus on the story when you’re in a different venue,” he said.

“The screen is big and the volume is loud and you’re free to truly escape.”