Local theatres approach reopening differently: Princess lifts restrictions while Apollo maintains them

For two years, local cinemas have adapted to ever-changing restrictions and public health guidelines, showing resilience and strength through the pandemic. For John Tutt, owner of Princess Cinemas in Waterloo, the provincial restrictions were welcome.

“It kind of made it easier for us as a business because then we had parameters to operate that the public knew about and could feel safe about,” Tutt said.

As of Mar. 1, however, those mandates are beginning to ease. The Ontario government is eliminating the vaccine passport mandate, providing individual businesses the autonomy to continue requiring two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at their own discretion.

Princess Cinemas has opted to stop checking for proof of vaccines—a decision Tutt said was based around trusting the advice of government officials who have been guiding public health protocol throughout the pandemic.

“I’m sure they don’t just pull those numbers out of their hat,” Tutt said. “That’s what they’re doing full-time. I run a theatre full-time, right? So, we really lean on them to help us through this.”

Tutt also credited Kitchener-Waterloo’s high vaccination rate and the ability to socially distance at their cinemas for helping to create a safe environment.

Apollo Cinema, however, is not yet prepared to drop the vaccine passport. The cinema recently announced they will continue practicing public health measures despite the removal of the provincial mandate.

“We…decided for the safety and comfort of both of our guests and staff that we will continue to require proof of two doses against COVID-19, for the foreseeable future,” Cara Watson, general manager and director of operations at Apollo Cinema, said.

“We didn’t want to put an end date on that, because things have been going back and forth for the past two years,” she said.

It’s a move that Watson said has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the Kitchener-Waterloo community.

Watson understands not everyone might be ready to return to the movies just yet.

Apollo Cinema will still serve popcorn to anyone who wants to avoid a large crowd and pick up a snack between 7:15-9:00 pP.mM. They will also be hosting additional mystery movie nights both live at the cinema and for those interested in purchasing their mystery movie boxes to take home.

Tutt said he did not feel qualified to determine a future date to lift restrictions around the vaccine passport outside of the provincial mandates lifting on March. 1.

“I wouldn’t want to rely on the whims of me. I wouldn’t want me to be the decider. I’d have much more faith in Dr. Wong, Dr. Tam and everybody that works with the numbers and case limits. It just makes sense. We’ve done it for two years,” he said.

He added that a lot of Princess Cinemas guests are regulars, so there is an additional level of comfort already. Both businesses are excited to be open to the public again and hopeful that, this time, they will remain open for good.

In March, Princess Cinemas is featuring Rock This Town, a locally produced one-hour film that will dive into KW’s unbelievable rock music history and look at the many rock legends who have passed through our region.

In April, Princess Cinemas will also host the three-day Bicycle Film Festival, a presentation with King Street Cycle, the Uptown Waterloo BIA, The City of Waterloo, Waterloo Region and bicycle advocacy groups.

Apollo Cinema will be screening Cats where folks can sing -along and shout at the screen while simultaneously taking in a show from Vixens and Tease Burlesque.