TD Securities is striking a bullish tone on Cineplex Inc.’s prospects as rising vaccination rates and easing public health restrictions help drive Canadians starved of the big-screen film experience back to the theatre.

In a note to clients Monday, TD analyst Derek Lessard boosted his 12-month price target on shares of Cineplex to $20 from $16, indicating the potential for 26.1 per cent upside in the year ahead. That would represent a massive rally from the October 2020 lows, when shares dipped into the $4 range.

In the note, Lessard said Ontario’s move into Step 3 of its reopening plan and a strong slate of films on deck for the back half of the year are key catalysts for Cineplex going into the late summer and fall.

“We expect theatre attendance to improve through the rest of 2021 as more Canadians are fully vaccinated and restrictions are lifted,” he said. “[Cineplex has a] solid 2021 movie slate as many key titles were shifted from 2020. Given the pent-up demand, there should be several blockbusters in the rest of the year.”

Under Step 3 of Ontario’s reopening plan, which begins on Friday, Cineplex will open its 68 theatres in the province at 50 per cent capacity and up to 1,000 guests per building. Ontario’s slower easing of pandemic restrictions has been particularly hard on the theatre operator, as the province accounts for about 42 per cent of its geographic footprint.

The pandemic was damaging for Cineplex, which saw revenue in its fiscal first quarter plunge 85.1 per cent year-over-year, as many theatres remained closed and the big Hollywood studios pushed back their release dates for some of the year’s most hotly-anticipated blockbusters. Attendance in the quarter fell 96.1 per cent.

Cineplex has touted the potential for a number of summer titles, including “F9” – the latest entry in the lucrative Fast & Furious franchise – and the LeBron James-led vehicle “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” as key films on its summer slate.