Starting April 8, theaters and cinemas will have to maintain a distance of 2 meters instead of 1.5 meters between seats. The announcement was passed silently during the Prime Minister’s press conference.
The Ministry of Culture and Communication informed of its directing to the main stakeholders in the cultural sector Tuesday afternoon, confirmed its spokesperson Louis Julian Dufresne. However, not many theater and movie theater directors were aware of such a measure when Journalism I called them. Others waited for details and confirmations that wouldn’t come until Wednesday.
No mention was made during the press conference of Prime Minister Francois Legault, so no questions could be asked on the subject. “The prime minister has always announced the main directions for the new health measures,” said Mr. Dufresne.
For RIDEAU President David LaFriere, this is a “major” announcement. We must review seating plans, transport spectators, and pay for tickets that have not been honored. Too much pressure on “totally exhausted” teams. “It’s happening like a hair on soup. We suddenly found ourselves in oversold territory with 48 hours notice.”
The person who is also the director of the Gilles-Vigneault Theater regrets the procedure that falls short of the way it was announced. “We were always consulted, and we always had plenty of time. There, the information was presented to us a few minutes before the press conference,” continued Mr. Laverier.
Tuesday evening, Mario Fortin, director of cinemas at Boubyan Park and Museum, was still waiting for the official confirmation.
“It is possible that we are lining up about two meters,” he cautiously said. Many details will have to be worked out, especially with regard to applying physical distancing. Under the current directive, venue owners would either have to close every other row of seats or provide free space for two seats. “No two movie theaters have the same size of seats. I don’t have one room that is the same as the other,” notes Mr. Fortin.
Despite everything, the cultural community breathed a sigh of relief. Duceppe Theater Co-Artist Jean Simon Traversy believes that tightening is always better than closing. It’s even a victory for him: Theaters have proven safe places. He simply said, “We are happy to stay open.” Even if it was twenty seats less, in a room already reduced by two thirds.
Mario Fortin agrees. “Last week, we took our feet off the throttle when we saw the closed areas. We are happy not to put the brakes on. Between wiping out a few seats or losing 50 employees, the choice is clear to him.” The ministry assured that for lost revenue, cinemas would be able to claim compensation Thanks to the amount of help the continuous spread.
For his part, the president of RIDEAU, who represents more than 350 galleries in Quebec, expressed some reservations about the impact of the advertisement on small places, which would have to get rid of the precious seats. “It’s a game changer. We’re moving from a very few to a really few,” says David Laverier.
He cites the example of the Marais Theater, which will have to move from 40 seats to barely 20. “The relationship between the room and the theater has completely changed,” he explains. According to him, the bond of trust between audiences and theaters is at risk in this context. He fears, “If I contact so-and-so’s action to tell him that I have to retrieve his ticket or that a show has been canceled, he may not return.”