We may need to survive on non-American movies if the U.S. doesn't contain COVID-19: Cinémas Guzzo CEO
The biggest hurdle to the survival of the movie-theatre industry is how the United States manages COVID-19, said Vincenzo “Vince” Guzzo, CEO of Cinémas Guzzo, a regional chain of movie theatres in Quebec.
“If the U.S. doesn’t get a handle on COVID-19, their theatres won’t be able to open — and they will not release movies unless their theatres are open,” Guzzo told BNN Bloomberg in an interview Friday. “We may end up having to survive on native Quebec movies or European movies.”
Hollywood typically produces some of the summer’s biggest blockbusters. But this year several titles have been pushed back including “Tenet,” the sequel to “Wonder Woman” and Disney’s live-action remake of “Mulan.”
Guzzo expressed hope that the eventual release of “Tenet,” the highly-anticipated film by Christopher Nolan, could propel the industry back into gear.
“Once Tenet comes out on the 12th of August, that will launch the opening of all the other titles,” he said.
Ellis Jacob, chief executive officer of Cineplex Inc., shared this sentiment.
“Our desire — and we are working very, very hard as an industry — [is] to have those movies stay on those particular dates,” Jacob told BNN Bloomberg in an interview Tuesday.
“The issue again is how things evolve in the U.S. and in different parts of the world.”
The future of Cineplex, Canada’s largest theatre operator, is in the spotlight again after shares in the company plunged nearly 19 per cent Tuesday. The company, already in turmoil after its planned $2.8-billion takeover by Cineworld Plc. collapsed in mid-June, reported a $178-million first-quarter loss late Monday, stating the pandemic has had a "material negative effect" on its operations.
Despite the upheaval, Jacob is confident in the company’s future. “We have a strong balance sheet. We have committed employees. We are doing all the steps we are required to do to make sure that we can survive for the long-term, and we will come out of this,” he said.
The sector’s recovery, however, depends on how quickly movie-goers will want to return to the cinema, and what the reality of a socially-distanced movie-going experience will look like.
“There will be very little change for the customers except for the fact that when they come in they will have to disinfect their hands and stand two metres apart,” Guzzo said. “Everything else will be behind the scenes and taken care of by our staff.”
Cinémas Guzzo currently operates 141 screens spread across 10 theatre complexes, accordingly to its website, all within the greater Montreal area.
Guzzo said he hopes to increase capacity from 25 per cent to 50 per cent, but he’s not planning for full capacity anytime soon.
“Since the first announcement of COVID, we’ve always asked for 50-per-cent capacity, and we still maintain that that is what it should be,” he said.
“The airlines can do what they want. I will do what’s right for me and what’s safe for me.”