Attendance doubled at a popular movie theatre in downtown Toronto on Saturday after the Ontario government lifted capacity limits for cinemas, according to the venue's general manager.
Rafiq Khimani, who works for Cineplex Cinemas Varsity and VIP, 55 Bloor St. W., said he is thrilled that cinemas can now operate at full capacity.
Other venues that no longer have capacity limits include theatres, concert and spectator sports venues, and car and horse racing tracks. The easing of rules for select settings took effect on Saturday morning.
"It has been absolutely wonderful," Khimani told CBC Toronto on Saturday.
"The guests are very happy. We're happy that a lot of guests coming in and families and circles of friends. So far, so good. We have definitely doubled our attendance this weekend."
The lifting of the limits comes a day after the latest Bond film, No Time to Die, starring Daniel Craig, opened in theatres across Canada. The movie is Craig's last foray as agent 007.
Khimani said the cinema attracted a "decent crowd" on Saturday, helped in part by the Bond film, but he said the theatre is still proceeding with caution, especially for guests who bought tickets in advance.
Cineplex is reviewing the guidelines from the provincial government before allowing patrons to fill every seat.
Masks and proof of vaccination required
The movie theatre will continue spacing out guests who purchased tickets when physical distancing was in place, he added. They will have exactly the same seats, he said.
"The only thing we're doing is we're reviewing the guidelines. A proper decision will be taken in a timely manner," he said.
Cineplex Cinemas Varsity and VIP, however, has expanded its operating hours from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. to ensure it has a number of shows playing throughout the day, he said.
In keeping with provincial guidelines, it is continuing to require that patrons show proof of vaccination and government identification when they enter the theatre and wear a mask at all times in common areas and auditoriums unless consuming food or drinks.
As for recovering from the pandemic, Khimani said it will take months for Cineplex to regain lost revenue.
"The good thing to know is that there is a big, beautiful lineup of films coming in throughout the fall season and especially during the holiday season. But it will obviously take awhile. It's been 18 months. It will take some considerable time before we are fully recovered, yes," he said.
Khimani has a message for movie-goers, however: "Do come to the cinemas. Please remember to wear your mask. Remember to bring your vaccination proof and ID. You're more than welcome to come with friends and family. We're happy and delighted to welcome you at the movies."