Curtains rise again on big screens across B.C.’s Interior as restart plan kicks in

On Tuesday afternoon, Jacquie McKay gleefully reopened her South Cariboo Theatre in 100 Mile House, B.C., nine months after closing its doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This week, cinemas across B.C.’s Interior are welcoming back viewers to enjoy the movies indoors after the province announced the beginning of its restart plan’s Step 2 on Monday.

The loosening of restrictions means indoor organized gatherings of 50 people will be allowed with a COVID-19 safety plan in place.

The South Cariboo Theatre opened briefly in August but shut down in September, two months before the province ordered theatres to close in order to curb the spread of coronavirus.

McKay said she missed the days when she had to stay up late until the last show was over pre-pandemic.

“It’s been really weird not going to work in the winter time. [When the theatre was closed] I was going to bed at eight o’clock instead of 11 and getting up early,” she said Tuesday to Doug Herbert, the guest host of CBC’s Daybreak Kamloops.

McKay says during the cinema’s closure, she and her two sons renovated the entire facility thanks to a grant from Telefilm Canada and the B.C. Small and Medium Sized Business Recovery Grant.

“We had all new carpets in the auditorium as we took out all the old seats and put in recliners… they’re very, very comfortable,” she said. “[We] got all new side curtains and carpet. It looks completely different.”

McKay said viewers will be kept two metres apart with two vacant seats in between.

John Roper, the general manager of Phoenix Theatre in Fort Nelson, B.C., said the cinema ran a very successful outdoor drive-in film screening program during the pandemic. (Submitted by John Roper)

The Phoenix Theatre in Fort Nelson in northeastern B.C., will reopen this Friday.

General manager John Roper says the cinema’s business hasn’t been impacted much by the pandemic, because he came up with other strategies to keep the movies rolling.

“When the pandemic hit us in March [2020] with the closures, we actually pivoted our business model and we started doing drive-in films, so we were actually in a good position,” he said Tuesday to Carolina de Ryk, the host of CBC’s Daybreak North.

Many people may stay home watching movies on live-streaming platforms during the pandemic, but Roper said he will be screening films that are exclusively for cinemas.

“I’ll be front and centre in the lobby greeting people … making sure everyone is having a good experience there,” he said.

LISTEN | Tap the link below to hear John Roper’s interview on Daybreak North:

Daybreak North5:11The Phoenix Theatre rises again

The independent movie theatre in Fort Nelson has been closed for most of the pandemic, but with restrictions lifting it plans to re-open to customers soon. 5:11

Salmar Theatres in Salmon Arm, B.C., will also resume operation this Friday.

Its manager Joel de Boer said the cinema had to let go all part-time employees during its closure, but he’s confident that most of them will return.

“Most of our staff that we have are teenage staff — high school, junior high kids — so they’re still living at home,” he said Monday to Chris Walker, the host of CBC’s Daybreak South. “I know pretty much all the staff is coming back.”

Salmar Grand Theatre, one of the cinemas run by Salmar Theatres in Salmon Arm, B.C., will reopen this Friday. (Submitted by Joel de Boer)