Theatres and music halls being left out of reopening phase

WINNIPEG — The province is seeking feedback from Manitobans about what sectors they believe should be considered in the next phase of reopening.

Last week the government released a list of changes that were under consideration, and it was made clear that indoor theatres and indoor music halls would not be included in the next phase of reopening.

Local musician Paul DeGurse was in Halifax preparing to conduct a musical when COVID-19 first hit Canada in 2020.

He said his musical was promptly cancelled, and theatres across the country started shutting down.

“Since then I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve performed professionally in 2020,” he said.

DeGurse said he understands the health restrictions are in place to keep people safe.

“That said, I was very frustrated that the same amount of care and consideration is not being shown to the live entertainment industry as is being shown to other recreation industries.

Casinos and bingo halls are also being left out of the next phase of reopening.

CEO of Landmark Cinemas Canada, Bill Walker said theatres are set up in a way that makes physical distancing and health measures easy to implement.

He said it’s offensive to be called out as the last segment of the population allowed to open.

“There are things we don’t want the population to do, and that’s household gatherings and close contacts with people outside their household,” said Walker.

“The movie theatre is the opposite of that. The movie theatre is with your family, socially distanced from any other cohort, not talking and enjoying something that can feel normal.”

Walker said there hasn’t been a single reported instance of transmission or outbreak with movie screenings.

Cinematheque is a local theatre in the exchange district that screens independent films from all over the world.

Senior Programmer, Dave Barber said he’s not in a rush to reopen the doors.

“We’re all looking forward to the day when things can reopen, but it has to be done very carefully and done in a very serious manner.”

Barber said Cinematheque started an online service called Cinematheque Online which allows you to rent movies through their website, but said the experience doesn’t compare to being in a theatre.

In a statement to CTV News, a spokesperson for the province said:

“As we continue to battle this deadly virus and monitor for variants of concerns, it is crucial that we continue to avoid the activities that are known to cause the most risk—closed spaces, crowded places and close-contact settings,” the spokesperson said.

“Manitobans once again have an opportunity to provide their input, feedback and priorities—via EngageMB—as we look to gradually and cautiously restart our services and activities throughout the province.”

DeGurse would like to see the province reconsider allowing his industry to reopen.

“If the audiences want it, I’m sure we can do it safely.” 

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