Cineplex Inc.’s chief executive officer is looking to put the pandemic in the rear-view mirror as one of its biggest markets will soon lift COVID-19 restrictions on movie theatres.

CEO Ellis Jacob said in a broadcast interview Wednesday that demand for movie tickets has been "huge" ahead of Ontario moving to Step 3 of its reopening plan later this week. The movie theatre operator has been pummeled by the pandemic, with attendance in the first quarter of 2021 plunging 96.1 per cent compared to the same period last year.

“On an overall basis, we have been burning cash due to the closures,” Jacob said. “But starting Friday I hope that’s completely behind us and we’re open and moving forward with a lot of content and a lot of opportunities both in our theatres and our Rec Rooms.”

Under Step 3 of Ontario’s reopening plan, cinemas will be allowed to operate at 50 per cent capacity with a cap of 1,000 people per building. That’s a welcome change in places such as the Greater Toronto Area, were theatres have been closed for more than nine months.

Jacob said demand is being helped by a strong slate of movie releases as the summer blockbuster season returns for audiences.

“[Last year], we were open but the U.S. wasn’t open at the same time.” he said. “Now the U.S. is in the lead … Movies like ‘Fast and Furious,’ ‘Black Widow’ have done extremely well and we’re putting those in our screens in Ontario starting Friday.”