The cinema industry is struggling.
A growing number of cinemas are shutting down because they can’t pay rent or keep their film inventory up to date.
The industry is also struggling to attract new employees.
This week, the Toronto-based Association of Cinemas told the CBC that more than half of the city’s cinemas would close this year because of budget cuts.
With many theatres facing budget cuts, the association has asked Toronto’s city council to intervene and find a solution.
A study commissioned by the association found that a one-time $3 million investment to improve Toronto’s public transport network could keep thousands of people from leaving the city.
But while that could save some money, it would not fix the problem of low-income residents who have to make long-distance trips.
A $1.9 million investment could make the city more accessible to low-wage workers.
“There’s a lot of things that we could do to help, but the biggest thing that we can do is, as a city, we have to address this, and we have a responsibility to our residents to make sure that we’re not leaving them behind,” said Kristina Condon, president of the Toronto Film Society, the city-run group that represents the cinemas.
“We’ve got to fix this.”
The city says the city can help by increasing public transit.
But in some cases, the government has tried to make the problem worse.
In 2015, Toronto enacted a new bylaw that mandated that any cinema that has less than five screens open at night must open by 7:30 a.m. on weekdays and 9:00 p.m on weekends.
But since then, it has closed nearly three-quarters of its cinemas as part of a plan to reduce the city to about 75 screens by 2020.
In a news release, the TTC said it will spend $8.8 million to modernize its fleet and hire 500 more workers by 2021.
However, that will not fix all the problems.
“These [cinemas] are still in a position where the number of screens is not sustainable and it’s becoming a big challenge for them,” said TTC CEO Andy Byford.
The TTC said there are more than 3,000 theatres in Toronto and many are still struggling to keep up with a projected population of about 1.6 million by 2020 and another 2.6 billion by 2050.
In January, TTC chair Karen Stintz announced a plan for a $15-per-day levy to fund more public transit in the city, which will be passed by council this spring.
In February, Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam said she would ask council to add $1 billion to the $2.4 billion the city has already pledged for public transit since the last budget was released.
“If we can get a good deal for taxpayers, that’s what we should be doing, and I think that we have that opportunity,” said Wong-Tam.
“And the TTC should be supporting the city with that.”