Three local movie theatres near Toronto have their screens slashed by knives in same day
Three independently-owned movie theatres just a short drive from Toronto are reeling today after seemingly coordinated incidents in which perpetrators randomly waltzed in and slashed their cinema screens, resulting in thousands of dollars in damages.
Oakville's Film.ca, Burlington's Cine Starz and Waterloo's Princess Cinemas were the unfortunate targets of the events that took place in broad daylight on Wednesday, with staff at the first of the three issuing an appeal online to any residents who may be able to identify the criminals.
"Do you recognize these two people? This happened today from 5:38-5:42 p.m. and we are devastated," Film.ca Cinemas tweeted out Wednesday night along with security footage that shows the individuals approaching the building and committing the act.
In the two-minute-long video, the notably young-looking duo can be seen walking up to the local theatre at Spears Rd. and Kerr St. with hoods pulled up, masks on and hands in their pockets before they enter without paying, walk into a theatre that had viewers inside watching a film, and slash across more than half of the screen with a knife.
They then enter a second theatre — which was thankfully empty — and stab that screen, too, before quickly leaving out the emergency exit door. One of the two also clearly has their phone out, filming the act.
It appears as if the two were at one point confronted by an employee before nodding and entering the theatre, and again by a patron who stands up as they damage the first of the two screens, and exits then after them to alert staff.
Do you recognize these two people? This happened today from 5:38-5:42pm and we are devastated.— Film.Ca Cinemas (@FilmCaCinemas) February 24, 2022
Call Halton Police at 905-878-5511 with TIPs or anonymously to 1-800-222-TIPS - Refer to occurrence #22-97950 pic.twitter.com/HzlXT6aPa0
And, staff at the other two affected theatres say that based on the video, they believe it is the same two people who did the same at their locations, with three screens torn at Cine Starz and one ruined at Princess.
All this just shortly after businesses in the sector were finally able to open their doors to customers once again after an extremely devastating year of ongoing lockdowns, and stringent capacity limits and protocols during the brief periods they have been permitted to open.
"We've worked hard to survive and pivot and support our community while amassing a massive amount of debt," says Jeff Knoll, local councillor and CEO of Film.ca, who adds that the deductible on the business's insurance makes claiming the damages unfeasible.
"We have the joy of coming out of it still in business, but now we're looking at $10,000 in money we don’t have. For us to go through this experience and have to pay for the cost is heartbreaking."
A manager at Cine Starz, too, shares the feeling, saying, "we just reopened, we tried to stand up on our feet again, and now this."
While the police investigation is still ongoing, the stakeholders that blogTO spoke with seem to believe that the incident is unfortunately likely racially-motivated, as the theatres were all due to screen South Asian films in the coming days, and there have been ongoing tensions between groups in the community.
Knoll says that an Oakville Cineplex location had to stop screening foreign films last year after the same type of thing happened.
"We presented all of the evidence to police, who are looking at all potential aspects... the fact that somebody took the pain and attention to video tape it leads me to believe that it could also be a stupid social media stunt, which speaks to the state of social media and the influence that it has over kids."
Because of the danger posed to those in the theatre at the time, Knoll says that he will likely have to ramp up security precautions at his business, which he feels is unfortunate given the connection he has with the neighbourhood.
"We are a very friendly, family-oriented, high customer service, community-driven movie theatre, and to have this happen in broad daylight in front of customers just bothers me viscerally," he says.
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