popcorn popcorngage Guzzo Legault

When will popcorn be legalized?

We spoke with Vincenzo Guzzo about the reopening of his theatres today — still without popcorn.

Though popcorn hasn’t been mentioned in a Quebec press conference since movie theatres were given the green light to reopen on Feb. 26 (minus snacks and drinks), we now know the criteria for the comeback of the concessions stand: orange zone designation. Once Montreal becomes an orange zone, which is projected to happen on June 7, indoor dining in restaurants will be allowed, and cinema snacking will follow.

Cinémas Guzzo, which has remained closed for the past two months, is finally reopening today. The plan to open on May 28 was made when Montreal was due to become an orange zone on May 31, and while that has now been pushed back, Cinémas Guzzo has moved ahead with its dry-run reopening.

popcorn popcorngage Guzzo Legault

“I still won’t get my popcorn for 10 days after we open,” said Vincenzo Guzzo in an interview yesterday. Back in February, Guzzo loudly voiced his opposition to the no-concessions rule that was put in place for movie theatres (“popcorngate“), which ran counter to the measures that were in place when cinemas reopened last July. At that time, clients could remove their masks in order to eat and drink once they were seated, as per the regulations in restaurants during their summer 2020 reopening, and on planes throughout the pandemic.

“The average home is 750 square feet; the average movie auditorium is 5,000 square feet,” Guzzo said, defending the relative safety of megaplex-style movie theatres. “The average home is 8, 9 feet maximum height; the average movie theatre is 27 feet high, not to mention that privately owned movie theatres have better HVAC and ventilation systems than our hospitals do.”

Guzzo added that individual cinema auditoriums are generally only full for 26 days out of the year, making moviegoing “a social distancing exercise.”

“You go in with your family, you don’t say hi to anyone necessarily, you don’t shake hands with anyone, you’re in your bubble,” Guzzo said. “I don’t know one movie theatre in North America that has been the source of cases.”

“I truly believe that we need to pay politicians better so we attract better talent.”

—Vincenzo guzzo

So why did Quebec decide to re-open theatres but restrict concessions? Guzzo theorizes the decision was purely political — a way to minimize criticism coming from all sides — but that it wound up hurting businesses more than helping (despite the offer of compensation for lost revenue).

“I told Legault, ‘The no-popcorn rule, it’s a symbolic restriction of danger,’ and he couldn’t understand. I said, ‘Look, the minute you tell people you can go to the theatres but you must wear your mask at all times in the auditorium and you can’t can’t take it off, people say, ‘Why? Is it dangerous?’ and then they don’t want to go. That’s why we’ve had a fiasco — the theatres that did open in Quebec, they were at 5%, not even, of regular business.

“I’m okay with a reduced capacity, I have no issues with that, but I really didn’t like Legault’s insinuation that opening your mouth and putting food in it in a movie theatre is dangerous.

“And for the record, public health never asked for that. I truly believe that we need to find better politicians. I believe we need to pay politicians better so we attract better talent.”

Guzzo also singled out Quebec Culture Minister Nathalie Roy for stating that going to the cinema is about watching movies, not eating popcorn. He noted that the promotion for this year’s edition of the Quebec Cinema festival featured a bag of popcorn next to a projector made of popcorn.

“Seriously, are we really that disconnected on how popcorn subsidizes movies? Come on guys, get with the program.” ■

To see the Cinémas Guzzo schedule, please visit their website.

For more film and TV coverage, please visit the Film & TV section.