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Montreal's Arts & Culture Scene Feels Unfairly Targeted By Legault's Red Zone Closures

Members are speaking out against the decision to shut them down — while stores stay open.
Montreal's Arts & Culture Scene Feels Unfairly Targeted By Legault's Red Zone Closures

On September 28, the provincial government announced that Montreal will be entering Quebec's COVID-19 red zone for 28 days, starting on October 1.

Premier François Legault outlined which businesses will remain operational and which will close during the red zone period. Businesses in the arts and culture industry were among the closures — hitting theatre companies, museums and cinemas particularly hard.

Now, some of Montreal's playwrights, actors and movie theatre owners are denouncing the government's decision, concerned about what this means for their livelihoods and the mental health of Montreal's art enthusiasts. 

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As of midnight on Thursday, all auditoriums, cinemas, museums, bars, casinos and restaurant dining areas will be forced to stop operations for the next month.

All activities and events are cancelled, outside of places of worship or funerals. 

Retail stores are staying open, as are beauty care services, and will operate under the province's public health protocols. This includes the social distancing, mask-wearing and hand-washing we've all become accustomed to.

Legault argues that theatres, cinemas have a higher chance of spreading the virus

Though retail stores are a major source of local outbreaks, according to Montreal's regional public health department, Premier Legault defended the province's decision to keep shops open while closing spaces for the arts.

In a press conference on September 29, he said there is a higher risk of transmission in places where people are in close contact for more than 10 minutes.

"In a theatre, even if you’re only 250 people, even if you’re wearing a mask until you sit down, there is still a risk after an hour or two . . . There’s a lot of community transmission," said Legault.

"So we can’t wait until there’s a bunch of cases in these places [to shut them down]."

Theatres and cinemas denounce Legault's restrictions

Mathieu Murphy-Perron, executive director of Tableau d'Hôte Theatre, said in a statement that the government's restrictions "unfairly target" the arts.

"It is scandalous that . . . you will be able shop at Chapters, but you may not visit a library. You can go to the mall, but not a museum," said Murphy-Perron.

Eda Holmes, artistic director of Centaur Theatre, told MTL Blog that artists in the city feared they would be next on the list of business closures.

"We felt that we had made a good first stab at finding a way to safely offer live art inside the pandemic. But we always knew that things could change on a dime — and they have," she said.

She said she hoped theatres and other arts institutions would receive financial compensation for their losses since the beginning of the pandemic in March.

Vince Guzzo, president of Cinémas Guzzo, said the government's move was "arbitrary and unwarranted."

"There have been no known cases of COVID-19 transmission linked to movie theatre visits in Québec," he said in a statement. 

"The inevitable toll induced by the government’s decision will be devastating for many local business owners and the provincial economy as a whole."

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