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Grand Falls-Windsor theatre looking for increased capacity in Alert Level 2 of reopening plan

Classic Theatre owner Shawn Feener hopes to get some leniency from the provincial government to help his business in Grand Falls-Windsor during Alert Level 2 of the province’s reopening plan. Nicholas Mercer/Saltwire Network
Classic Theatre owner Shawn Feener hopes to get some leniency from the provincial government to help his business in Grand Falls-Windsor during Alert Level 2 of the province’s reopening plan. - Nicholas Mercer/Saltwire Network

The Classic Theatre owners says its unfair to lump his operation in with industry giant Cineplex

GRAND FALLS-WINDSOR, N.L. —

The Classic Theatre in Grand Falls-Windsor has been dark for the last three months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Still, the inside of the theatre is filled with the aroma of buttered popcorn, and owner Shawn Feener is helping keep that smell in the air.

Feener is preparing popcorn for more than 100 Exploits Valley High graduates for one of its 2020 graduation events the students have planned.

In two weeks, he hopes to be able to sell some of that popcorn in the theatre he has owned for the last nine years.

According to provincial regulations, the Classic Theatre falls under the indoor entertainment umbrella and will be allowed to reopen today when the province enters Alert Level 2 of its public health emergency. The reopening would be subject to restrictions around occupancy and increased sanitation protocols.


“I have all of these extra costs and now they’re telling me I can only open for 50 people."
— Shawn Feener


Feener had anticipated taping off every second row of the theatre's seating, with social distancing in mind. He will also hire extra staff to ensure people are taking the sanitization and distancing protocols seriously.

Heading into Alert Level 2, he was hoping to be able to seat 110 people inside the 220-capacity theatre. However, in correspondence with the provincial government, Feener has been told he can have 50 per cent capacity or 50 people, whichever is lowest.

“We can’t do that with 50 people, there is no way humanly possible,” he said of being able to keep his business open.

Feener says his theatre — which is one of five independent theatres in the province — is being lumped in with industry giant Cineplex, which isn’t fair.

“Cineplex does not have the same theatre that we have,” he said. “We have a completely different layout.”

Wednesday morning Feener emailed the provincial government expressing this sentiment in hopes of receiving a more lenient layout plan for when he anticipates opening in two weeks.

“I have all of these extra costs and now they’re telling me I can only open for 50 people,” he said. “We’ll see what we can do.”

Cineplex will open theatres as provincial governments and provincial health authorities allow it to do so on July 3. That includes all of its theatres in Alberta, British Columbia, Quebec, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Rec Room in St. John’s is scheduled to open July 2.




In doing so, the theatre chain will reduce capacity in its theatres by 60 to 80 per cent, which is dependent on building layouts and provincial guidelines, according to a statement emailed to Saltwire Network on Wednesday.

Cineplex will also implement reserved seating to ensure sufficient social distancing and enhanced cleaning efforts, including personal protective equipment for its employees.

“Throughout the planning process, our top priority has always been the health and safety of our employees and guests and ensuring that your time with us is safe, comfortable and welcoming,” read the emailed statement. “That priority has been at the heart of our preparations from the very beginning.

“We have used the last three months to re-examine all of our buildings and processes, so that when our theatres and entertainment venues reopen, we will have implemented an industry-leading program with end-to-end health and safety protocols.”

Despite what he says are restrictive measures around his business, Feener is committed to making a go of things when he eventually reopens the Classic Theatre.

“There is nothing else we can do. Just keep moving forward,” he said.

Nicholas Mercer is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering Central Newfoundland for SaltWire Network.


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