With popcorn sales banned, some movie theatre owners say it's not worth it to reopen
MONTREAL -- Though Quebec's movie theatres will soon be allowed to reopen, a ban on selling popcorn and another snacks has some owners questioning if it's even worth it to have the show go on.
Mario Fortin, general manager of Rosemont's Cinema Beaubien and Cinema du Parc, said he had his “fingers crossed, waiting for them to give us a little bit of a miracle” when he was first required to shut down in the fall. The news that theatres would be permitted to re-open for March break came as a relief, even with restrictions such as needing to close before curfew and limiting the number of customers. That was, until he learned on the ban on snack selling.
“They're taking away a big part of our business that makes it important for us,” he said.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault said Thursday there will be financial compensation offered to make up for banning popcorn sales.
Guzzo Cinemas president Vincenzo Guzzo said the announcement came as a surprise to him as well. He anticipates many parents will avoid theatres if they can't give their kids the full movie experience.
“It just doesn't make sense. It's like taking a child to an ice cream parlour and telling them they can only have the cone without the ice cream in it,” he said.
Aside from keeping audiences away, not being able to sell food also cuts into the bottom line. Theatres only take a portion of the money from each ticket sold and rely on the sale of popcorn, candy and soft drinks to stay afloat. Guzzo said if he can't sell snacks, he won't bother re-opening.
“If 50 per cent of your revenue comes from concessions, you're now limited to only 50 per cent of box office revenue,” he said. “Once you look at the 55 to 60 per cent royalties we have to give, there's no way that 20 per cent of our total revenue could ever compensate.”
Liberal MNA Andre Fortin said he was puzzled by the Legault government's decision.
“I think the fact that popcorn be allowed or not is a discussion that needs to happen between government, public health and the movie theatre association,” he said. “But that discussion should have happened before the government put it out in public.”
“I'm very curious as to why theatres pose a threat and not cinemas, why certain activities were not re-instated,” said Parti Quebecois leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon.
Mario Fortin said despite the challenges, he still plans to re-open.
“We have to figure this all out. My accountant has been my best friend today.”
- With files from CTV Montreal's Angela Mackenzie