Cineplex issues nearly 5,000 temporary layoffs amid Ontario cinema closures

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Canada's largest film exhibitor says it plans to rehire the part-time staffers once cinemas reopen.

Cineplex says it’s had to temporarily lay off nearly 5,000 staff as a result of mandated cinema closures from a new round of COVID-19 measures in Ontario.

A spokesperson for Canada’s largest film exhibitor tells Playback Daily the positions are part-time members of the company’s workforce in Ontario, where all 67 Cineplex locations were forced to close as of today (Jan. 5), resulting in full refunds for patrons who had bought tickets before the new measures were announced on Monday.

The Cineplex representative says the move was “tough but necessary,” noting the company plans to reopen its theatre and entertainment venues across Ontario, which represent 44% of all its screens, as soon as allowed and rehire the laid-off staff.

“We are eager to get our team back to work once and for all as soon as these temporary restrictions are lifted,” Sarah Van Lange says in a statement.

Landmark Cinemas says it’s also been forced to once again lay off “hundreds” of part-time employees as a result of the cinema closures, which the province announced as part of a temporary move to modified Step Two of its Roadmap to Reopen due to a surge in COVID cases from the highly transmissible Omicron variant over the holidays.

Landmark, which has 10 theatres in the province – and about 40 throughout Western Canada and Ontario – says it hopes the closure will be limited to three weeks.

Cineplex has also had to shutter 17 theatres in Quebec and two in Newfoundland and Labrador as a result of new COVID-19 measures from surging cases in the past two weeks. The rest of its cinemas are open in other provinces but with varying levels of operating restrictions, with the exception of Saskatchewan, which is operating normally.

Vincenzo Guzzo, president and CEO of Cinémas Guzzo in Quebec, tells Playback he’s had to issue 600 temporary layoffs because of the latest closures.

Guzzo says his company — the largest chain of independent movie theatres in Québec with 10 locations — was on track to pull in decent box-office numbers before the holiday shutdown in Quebec. On Dec. 20, the day the province announced the latest shutdown, his company’s weekend box office numbers came in at 8% higher than they were in the same period in 2019 due to the blockbuster Spider-Man: No Way Home, he says.

“With every announcement on Spider-Man that comes out, it’s like an extra thorn in our back that says, ‘We could have really been back,’” says Guzzo.