Cinémas Guzzo owner refuses Legault’s compensation offer

Theatre chain won’t reopen Feb. 26, citing lost snack stand revenues

In spite of a pledge by Quebec Premier François Legault to compensate movie theatre owners for revenue lost after not being allowed to sell snacks when theatres reopen in pandemic red zones on Feb. 26, Cinémas Guzzo owner Vince Guzzo is turning down the offer, saying it’s not worth the trouble.

Film theatres in Quebec have been closed since earlier this year when the provincial government decided to reimpose wide-ranging measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including an 8 pm – 5 am curfew.

Looming March break

The lifting of the closings comes as the province heads towards the annual March school break, when parents seek ways to keep their children busy. One of the rules at reopened theatres will be that film-goers must wear masks at all times during screenings.

Last week, Legault insisted the government has no intention of allowing snack food sales when theatres reopen ahead of the March break. In the meantime, despite the reopenings, the province’s curfew in the Montreal region will remain in place.

“I can understand that a part of the profits for the movie theatres is coming from popcorn,” Legault told journalists last week. “So, we want to open movie theatres for the school break, the March break, for the children, and Mr. Guzzo said that he doesn’t want to open movie theatres, and he has many in Quebec, if we don’t permit him to sell popcorn.”

‘Not a good idea’

Legault said that public health officials have been telling the government that opening restaurants everywhere would not be a good idea, so selling food in theatres should follow the same logic. “If you want people to keep the mask during all the movie, of course, you cannot sell popcorn,” he said.

‘I will not be reopening. I will be waiting for the food restrictions to be removed’

Vince Guzzo, who heads up the largest privately-owned chain of movie theatres in Quebec, has been known over the years, long before the pandemic struck, for stating that film venues rely on the sale of popcorn and snacks for half their revenue.

Possible legal action

“It’s not what I asked for,” Guzzo said in an interview regarding Legault’s offer, noting that it was the theatre-owners’ association that expressed satisfaction with the province’s decision to compensate for the loss of snack food sales.

While Guzzo served as president of the association up to ten months ago, he said he is no longer even a member. “Somebody else asked for money,” he said. “I just want the right to sell my product and offer my service.”

He said he is considering taking legal action against the province, but is waiting until the damage can be fully assessed. “We’ve always seriously considered it on a damage level,” he said. “You have three years after your damage to claim for it. So, damage is ongoing because they’re still not allowing us to reopen adequately.

End restrictions, he says

“He [Legault] wants to compensate – I means it’s his right to – but ultimately [reopening] is all that I want,” he added.

Guzzo was adamant that, given the current conditions offered by the province, Cinémas Guzzo would not be reopening on the date proclaimed by Quebec.

“I will not be reopening. I will be waiting for the food restrictions to be removed,” he said. “There is one restriction they’ve got to remove,” he added, “which is the restriction forbidding us from selling food and drink to be consumed on the premises.”