This is what shuttered Toronto movie theatres are doing to stay afloat right now
When the provincial government announced that Toronto, Peel and Ottawa would be returning to a modified version of Stage 2 earlier this month, it meant that movie theatres within the three regions would have to close their doors all over again and withstand yet another period without income.
Ontario's new rules stated that gyms, casinos, movie theatres and other businesses would have to close for at least 28 days, and the CEO of Cineplex immediately called the measures "excessive."
But alas, theatres in Toronto have had to close nonethless, making an already difficult financial situation that much more challenging.
As a result, some of the city's independent theatres have had to get creative and think of new ways to bring in some money throughout the shutdown.
Paradise is offering both delivery and pick up, and customers can also purchase local cured meats, marinated olives and other fun concessions to help support the local theatre.
"With us not able to operate Paradise Theatre as it was intended; we had no choice but to pivot," said Keegan Ferguson, the general manager of Paradise.
"We have been able to turn our lobby space into a full-fledged wine and bottle shop with an outstanding selection of Ontario and international wines, cheeses and cured meats along with Blackbird bread. We have started to offer fine olive oils and preserves."
He said they've also been offering a rotating selection of films for streaming on their website, but they sadly haven't seen a lot of traction when competing with the likes of Netflix, Crave and others.
From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., customers will be able to purchase popcorn, candy, beer and wine right from the front door of the theatre, located at 2236 Queen St. East.
Some theatres have meanwhile chosen to move beyond food drink offerings altogether in order to solely focus on bringing engaging film and culture content, that would have otherwise been shown in person, to viewers at home.
"We seem to be busier without a cinema than we even were with a cinema," said Managing Director of Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema Alan Black.
Hot Docs had been preparing to reopen their doors in the fall after months of biding time and trying to come up with the safest possible reopening plan, and Black told blogTO it's discouraging that they were never given that chance.
Still, he said they've moved to provide many of their services online, including by offering suggestions for great documentaries to watch on platforms like Netlix, Crave and CBC back in March, and holding their digital festival in the spring.
He explained that roughly 10,000 people hold a Hot Docs membership, and they wanted to ensure those people could continue to engage with great content even as the theatre remained closed.
They've been holding a number of different speaker series with impressive turnouts, said Black, and they recently launched their own streaming platform called Hot Docs At Home where they've been providing much of the content they would have otherwise shown to viewers in person.
Black said they recently soft-piloted a monthly membership and subscription to this service, and they received viewers from not just Toronto but also places including Winnipeg, Victoria, Whitehorse and Newfoundland.
He said the opportunity to grow Hot Docs' audience outside the city has been exciting, and he acknowledged that this likely never would have been possible had the pandemic not forced the closure of theatres.
But of course, viewing films together and in person is always the better option when it's safe to do so, he said.
"We try to paint an optimistic picture, but obviously we would much prefer to have 700 people shoulder-to-shoulder in the cinema," said Black.
And yet, they've continued to offer great film and documentaries to viewers in Toronto and beyond despite the difficult circumstances, and Black says they'll continue to do so for as long as needed.
"I think what we kind of recognized early on was that we were going o make sure that we were going to continue to get people films," he said.
"Our mission is to make sure people get exposed to great documentaries… and by hook or by crook we were going to find ways to get these films to people."
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