• “Now, this is not the end. It’s not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” — Winston Churchill
• “Did the monkey just talk?” — Maia Simmons, Godzilla Vs. Kong
Sandy and Charity Morris had already spent $25 so the children could watch Godzilla Vs. Kong on pay-per-view when it came out this spring.
There’s nothing like seeing a movie in the theatre, though, nothing like the taste of popcorn when the screen towers above you and the sound feels almost physical. So, when cinemas reopened Tuesday after a seven-month shutdown, the family was almost first in line at the Cineplex Odeon on Yates Street, eager to see it again.
“The kids are pumped up for it,” said Sandy, nodding toward Nick Morris, 11, Sydney Morris, 11 and Tyler Morris, 4.
Other patrons were pumped to see a movie, period. “I don’t know what’s showing, but I kind of want to see anything,” said Malcolm Barclay, reflecting a certain giddiness that prevailed among the moviegoers — and staff — as B.C. took a few more tentative steps to emerging from the pandemic.
Now, let’s not pretend that this is the return to normal times. In normal times, cinemas aren’t limited to 50 people, spaced out like a frosty family reunion. In normal times, grocery store staff don’t wipe down counters, hand baskets and door handles non-stop like a cat burglar getting rid of fingerprints. In normal times, retail transactions don’t include mask-muffled misunderstandings that only end when one of you pokes your head around the Plexiglas, which kind of defeats the purpose.
But Tuesday’s changes — movies, a few people allowed in your home, wobbly legged passengers lurching off the ferries like the kidnapped Earthlings being disgorged from the alien spaceship at the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind — at least make it feel like the turning of a corner. A start.
The question is, the start of what? Even if the variants don’t mess things up and B.C. manages to click through the remaining two phases of its four-phase reopening plan by early September, as hoped, plenty of questions remain. At the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, CEO Bruce Williams said the greatest concern he hears from members has to do with uncertainty about what the “new normal” will look like.
How will consumer habits change? Will people keep working remotely? The chamber has asked the provincial government whether it will send work-at-home public servants back to their downtown offices, but hasn’t been given a firm answer. Restaurants and shops would sure love to see them back. On Tuesday — Williams’s first anniversary as chamber chief — he took part in a campaign in which reps from the Chamber, the Downtown Victoria Business Association, Destination Greater Victoria and the local chapter of the B.C. Restaurant and Food Services Association show up at a restaurant and pick up the tab for random diners. The idea is to spur support for the hospitality industry during mid-week.
Businesses want to know when the Canada-U.S. border will open, Williams said. And they wonder about what will happen when masks are no longer mandatory by provincial health order — something that could happen as soon as July 1 — but are still desired by store staff and customers. Even when B.C.’s mandatory mask rule is gone, store owners will still have the right to require them. Williams said the Chamber wants to be able to offer guidance to members on how to avoid conflicts. (You may recall some ugly scenes in which anti-maskers abused young retail employees last year.) “We also don’t know the future of Plexiglas,” Williams said.
And how about those directional arrows and other safety measures in the grocery stores? Dunno. Fairway Markets’ Robert Jay and Thrifty Foods both said they’ll continue to adhere to protocols as they evolve. WorkSafe B.C. said it is working on updated guidance for phase three of the reopening plan; employers can expect to see something posted on WorkSafe’s website before July 1.
For now, we can at least enjoy a movie. Note that many of Tuesday’s releases are sequels: The Godzilla show, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, Peter Rabbit 2, A Quiet Place Part II. The latter was, of course, the follow-up to a documentary about your social life in the past year and a half.