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Gone are the days of bustling movie theatre lobbies with folks rushing to buy tickets and bags of popcorn — for now, anyways.

Four theatres — Scotiabank Theatre in Polo Park, SilverCity St. Vital Cinemas, Landmark Cinemas 8 Grant Park and Prairie City Cinema in Portage la Prairie — opened Saturday with new public-health measures in place.

The provincial government is allowing movie theatres to open at 30 per cent capacity, with a maximum of 500 people inside.

At Scotiabank Theatre, there are social distancing markers on the floor for concession lines. However, there was no need for them on opening day — the wait time was as long as it took you to reach the counter.

Movie theatre employees allowed customers in the building 15 minutes before their showtime.

Sean Crawford went to see Jurassic Park at Scotiabank Theatre with his wife Saturday afternoon. Crawford, 51, had seen the film on its original opening night.

"The chance to see it on the big screen again was pretty cool," he said.

Jurassic Park is one of many older films being replayed in the cinemas — almost all films being shown are repeats from prior years, with the exception being Target Number One at Scotiabank Theatre.

"I said to my wife, ‘What they’ve gotta do is just put all these movies back up. Put Star Wars back up. Another generation can see them on the big screen," Crawford said. "I think it’s a great opportunity."

Sean Crawford picks up drinks form the concession stand as he gets ready to enjoy a movie at Scotiabank Theatre for the first time since the Covid-19 lockdown. (Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

Sean Crawford picks up drinks form the concession stand as he gets ready to enjoy a movie at Scotiabank Theatre for the first time since the Covid-19 lockdown. (Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press)

Crawford and his wife normally see movies the weekend they come out, he said. They’d switched to watching shows on streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ while theatres were closed, but it wasn’t the same experience as watching on the big screen, he said.

Even so, Crawford got a new experience in his familiar place Saturday afternoon.

He paid $5 for his movie ticket — a much cheaper rate than normal — and he bought it online the night before. Purchasing online isn’t new, but now, it’s advised. Customers choose their seats while buying, and they can only choose a spot from clusters of two scattered around the theatre. People can also purchase at self-serve kiosks in the theatre.

Before Jurassic Park started, Crawford would’ve seen short clips reminding folks to stay physically distant — the clips came even before the Tommy Texting video.

Crawford wore a mask, like all of Cineplex’s employees, though he wasn’t mandated to as a customer. He said he didn’t feel unsafe, but he wanted to protect others.

"I wasn’t uncomfortable at all," he said. "I think Manitobans have done a great job (of keeping COVID-19 numbers low)."

Illyanna Anderson, who saw The Karate Kid with her boyfriend and younger brother Saturday afternoon, said she was a bit worried about COVID-19 while going to the theatre.

"It’s always in the back of my mind, but it’s settled down now more than when (the pandemic) first started," Anderson said.

Movie theatres in Brandon and Winkler are scheduled to reopen with limited capacities July 31. Cineplex announced in a news release that it would open its three other Manitoban locations over the next several weeks.

Cineplex’s The Rec Room has also reopened with reduced operating hours.

South Beach Casino and Sand Hills Casino opened Saturday. Provincial regulations allow casinos to now open at 30 per cent capacity. Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries said it plans to open its two casinos and Shark Club Gaming Centre on Wednesday.


Gabrielle Piché

Gabrielle Piché
The Headliner community journalist

Gabrielle Piché is the community journalist for The Headliner. Gabby is a cub reporter fresh from Red River College’s creative communications program. She majored in journalism and spent the summer of 2020 as an intern at the Winnipeg Free Press. Gabby also has a B.A. in communications from the University of Winnipeg. She reported for newspapers in the Interlake, including the Selkirk Record, in 2019, and received the Eric and Jack Wells Excellence in Journalism award in 2020. When she’s not chasing stories, you can find Gabby listening to podcasts, attempting yoga or petting somebody’s dog Email her at gabrielle.piche@canstarnews.com

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