When Ontario moved into Step 3 of its reopening plan on July 16, many people did something they hadn’t been able to do for more than a year: head to the movie theatre.
For Imagine Cinemas’ Downtown Movie Lounge, located in Elm Place, welcoming people back to the movies was, well, welcome.
Gina Facca, the chief operating officer for Imagine Cinemas, said the move into Step 3 saw an immediate reaction from the public, which has endured the pandemic without the calming and therapeutic value of being able to enjoy a movie with friends for months.
"You know it was great,” Facca said. “We saw lots of people come out. We were pretty much sold out of our seven oclock shows on Friday and Saturday nights this week.
"We had good family movies. We had a little bit of something for everybody. It was pretty crazy."
She added that it was indeed a major logistics exercise to get back to business.
"It was because we had been closed for so long," said Facca. She said it was almost like opening a new cinema.
"We had to have people come in to clean out all the pop lines," she said. "We had to order new pop, new candy, new popcorn, all that good stuff. We were really starting from ground zero again."
Part of that has included hiring new staff. She said many staff members had to find new jobs to survive the pandemic.
"We are still hiring in Sudbury. So that has been a bit of a challenge," said Facca.
She said Imagine is looking for individuals who are 18 or older who are Smart Serve qualified and have customer service experience. She encouraged applicants to upload resumes to ImagineCinemas.com resume page.
Facca said the best part of the reopening is that Downtown Movie Lounge is now designated for first release movies.
"We are now a first-run movie house, which means we get the best movies at the same time as everybody else. So right now for example we're showing Black Widow. We're showing Space Jam. So we're showing the latest releases."
The other attraction she said is that Imagine has the city's only "full luxury recliners" in house, which she quickly added "are the nicest seats in Sudbury."
Despite the easing of the pandemic rules, movie patrons will be asked to wear masks into the venue. Once they are seated and enjoying drinks and snacks, masks are not required.
Facca said movie-goers can purchase tickets online in advance to allow them to select their seat, or group of seats, as they see fit.
"We have this really cool setup where once you select your seat for your party, and there's no limit to how many you can have in your party. The seats adjacent on either side can be blocked off so you don't have a party sitting right next to you that you don't know," she said.
Facca said despite the popularity of Internet streaming, Apple TV and Netflix, the cinema business has bounced back and is up to the challenge of providing big-screen entertainment.
"I think based on the numbers this weekend that we were seeing, people are looking for something to do other than just sit and home and do what they've been doing for the last 16 months. People are definitely looking for something new and different and we can offer them that in downtown Sudbury for sure," she said.
Len Gillis is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter at Sudbury.com. He covers health care in Northern Ontario.