Cultural institutions cancel shows, empty seats amid COVID-19 concerns
Health & Safety Human Resources Occupational Hygiene Coronavirus safety Shows Theatres
Movie theatres taking safety measures to help audiences feel more comfortable
By Adina Bresge
Cultural institutions are taking a hit as concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic lead to empty seats at cinemas, theatres and TV show tapings.
The National Arts Centre in Ottawa announced Friday that all performances and events will be cancelled through April 5.
President and CEO Christopher Deacon assured customers in a statement that their tickets will be exchanged or refunded, but asked for patience as the centre deals with the change in programming.
In southwestern Ontario, the Stratford Festival has called off all performances from April 11 to May 2, as well as public events in its facilities through next month.
Artistic director Antoni Cimolino said the COVID-19 crisis presents the biggest challenge to the performing arts “in living memory.”
“The motto ‘The show must go on!’ is bred in the bone and it’s therefore very difficult to break out of that mindset,” Cimolino said in a statement. “But sometimes the show cannot go on. It is extremely important for public health that we do our part.”
The Grand Theatre in London, Ont., has suspended its programming for the rest of the season.
That includes shuttering its production of “Room,” based on the blockbuster novel by Irish-Canadian writer Emma Donoghue.
The theatre asked patrons to consider donating the value of their tickets to the not-for-profit institution during this “time of crisis.”
Seat separation at movies
Meanwhile, movie theatres are also taking safety measures to help audiences feel more comfortable.
The TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto will be selling fewer tickets per screening for at least the next four weeks as part of a new social-distancing policy.
The theatre said movie-goers will be separated by three seats to give audiences space to safely enjoy the film.
Staff will also sanitize all tables, armrests and other areas in and around the cinemas, the theatre said.
Cineplex said it’s also rolling out “enhanced cleaning protocols” at locations across the country.
The chain said it’s implementing policies to ensure hourly staff don’t suffer a financial hit for staying home to prevent the spread of the virus.
On the small screen, “The Marilyn Denis Show” and “The Social” have shifted their formats to shoot without studio audiences, according to Bell Media.
The company adds it’s monitoring the situation closely and will make decisions on a week-by-week basis.
With files from Victoria Ahearn