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Metro Vancouver Cineplex theatres turn to 'private' movie nights amid $121-million losses

Starting at $125 for groups of up to 20 guests, these movie experiences include a private auditorium rental and the choice of more than 1,000 movie titles
Cineplex and all of its Canadian theatres are set to be purchased. Canadian Press Photo

Metro Vancouver's Cineplex movie theatres are trying to quell the "severe" financial impacts of COVID-19 with new programs that include private rentals in an attempt to lure back moviegoers.

Cineplex reported a staggering net loss of $121.2 million, with the chain's revenue sitting at $61 million in the three months ending Sept. 30 - down from $418.4 million during the same period in 2019.

Analysts expected Cineplex to lose $57.3 million or $1.31 per share, according to financial data firm Refinitiv.

Now, Cineplex theatres aross the city are launching Private Movie Nights – a new private screening offering.

Starting at $125 for groups of up to 20 guests, these movie experiences include a private auditorium rental and the choice of more than 1,000 movie titles, such as Love Actually orThe Grinch. Cineplex has film titles for everyone including new and current releases, holiday favourites and all-time classics.

"Going to the movies is a holiday tradition for so many Canadians, and we are delighted to offer a safe and welcoming place for families and friends to keep their traditions alive through the magic of the movie theatre experience," said Ellis Jacob, president and CEO, Cineplex, in a news release. "Health and safety remain our top priority today and throughout this entire pandemic, and I couldn't be prouder of how hard our local theatre teams have worked to keep Canadians safe since our reopening. 'Private Movie Nights' are an affordable way for families, friends, and other groups to safely gather and celebrate the season."

You can book a private screen through Cineplex's dedicated web page. Cineplex Inc. said Friday that it will decrease the number of new projects it pursues and continue to try to reduce real estate and payroll costs by considering the sale of its head office and using the federal government's wage subsidy program.

For Burnaby, Cineplex recently told the NOW it plans on still opening the Rec Room project that has been under construction at the Amazing Brentwood mall complex – possibly by the end of 2020. It also plans on opening a new VIP theatre at the Amazing Brentwood sometime in 2021.

Cineplex is still battling Cineworld, a U.K. based theatre operator that was due to buy Cineplex for $2.8 billion, through litigation.

Cineworld walked away from the deal on June 12, saying it had become aware of a material adverse effect and breaches by Cineplex, which has vehemently denied the accusations.

Meanwhile, local health regulations have greatly reduced the number of moviegoers Cineplex can welcome at a time and the chain has had to pay for increased sanitization and the costs that come with physically distancing guests and protecting staff.

Only 1.6 million people visited the movies when they were open during the quarter, down from 17.5 million in the third quarter of 2019.

Christopher Nolan's "Tenet" was one of the few new features moviegoers were treated to. Cineplex screened the film ahead of it being released to U.S. audiences — a rarity in the movie world.

One of the last major releases that has yet to be moved from this year is the sequel to "Wonder Woman," which Jacob said he has been talking to Warner Bros about.

"If they move it, they would probably move it into the first or second quarter of 2021. At the moment, they haven't indicated that, but the risk is there," he said.

For those unwilling to visit a theatre during the pandemic, Cineplex has long offered home movie rentals and delivery of concession stand favourites like popcorn via Uber Eats or SkipTheDishes.

  • With files from the Canadian Press

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