Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott announced today that cinemas in the province would close, effective Wednesday, January 5, for at least two weeks, amid the province’s growing concerns over the Omicron Variant surge. Additionally, bars, restaurants, and gyms will also close, with the exception of any outdoor venue that can sell food or drink, or recreation areas such as ski resorts. Retail stores will operate at 50% capacity as of Wednesday.
The move isn’t surprising, considering that, two weeks ago, the province of Québec shuttered theatres as of Monday, December 20th, after their best weekend since the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, with Spider-Man: No Way Home, with a $2 million box-office opening weekend. For Québec, these numbers are quite impressive. Ontario opted to cap cinemas at 50% capacity and prohibit the sale of food and drinks during the holidays, but the Premier recognized the steps were not enough to slow down the transmission of Omicron.
In a statement, Canada, and Ontario’s biggest movie chain, Cineplex, stated that “all 67 theatres in Ontario will be closed as of Wednesday, January 5, and will reopen as soon as we are allowed. All bookings will be cancelled for a full refund. To make it easy as possible, we have already begun processing ticket refunds back to your original method of payment. There is no need to contact our Guest Services or your local theater team for a refund.”
These closures have caused another blow to cinemas, who were ready to enjoy an incredible holiday season with the sole release of No Way Home on December 17th, but the swift arrival and rapid pace of the Omicron variant blunted many ticket sales for the Christmas week, and theater chains’ much-needed economic recovery did not happen as planned.
Cineplex CEO Ellis Jacob explained to The Hollywood Reporter that “The timing of these restrictions was unfortunate as we were approaching our busiest period of the year.” However, “While we were not able to realize the full benefits of the film Spider-Man: No Way Home, which had the second-biggest domestic opening weekend of all time and the biggest December opening ever, we know the industry is recovering and our guests want to be back in our theater”, as No Way Home had sold the biggest ticket pre-sales in Cineplex history, surpassing Avengers: Endgame and Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Of course, the theater industry will be in shambles for the next month or two, as many countries are tallying up a record number of COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant, which could potentially cause more cinema closures and film delays. We’ve already reported that some award ceremonies and movies were postponed due to Omicron fears, so it won’t be a surprise when more will come in the following weeks. Scream’s box-office results will be an indicator of which direction movie studios will take in response to the Omicron wave, even if most cinemas across the United States are currently open.