Almost a full year after they were ordered closed, movie theaters in New York City are now set to reopen on March 5th. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the good news during a press conference on February 22nd and outlined specific requirements that will need to be followed. Theaters across the state of New York were given the green light to reopen last October, and the guidance they had adhered to will serve as the template for NYC policy.
This move is certainly a welcome one for those working in the film industry and eager movie-going audiences. Indefinitely delayed releases of major blockbusters and simultaneous rollouts in limited markets and on streaming services have been met with negative reactions as studios and distributors have struggled to find a way to recoup costs and get their projects out to the public. Because Los Angeles and New York City accounted for a significant portion of box office revenue prior to the pandemic, this is considered a major optimistic step in the right direction for getting people back to movie theaters and profitability back on track.
AMC Theaters operates thirteen locations in New York City and has already committed to having them open on March 5th. Its stock has seen a massive surge as a result of the good news and the anticipation that business will be high due to a population that has needed to resort to traveling out of the city by train or bus to find an open movie theater or watching content at home, and likely includes many excited to get back to a big screen. Regal Cinemas, another major player in NYC, has been closed nationwide, and there is no definitive word yet on whether this allowance means that Regal and its parent company Cineworld will start operations back up again as early as next week.
The National Association of Theatre Owners was very happy about this announcement, and in a statement praised the effectiveness of “stringent voluntary health and safety protocols” for those cinemas that have been open, and have, according to the statement, not led to “a single outbreak of COVID-19 being traced to movie theaters.” In New York City, theaters will need to stick to 25 percent capacity or 50 people per auditorium, whichever is greater, to start, and will need to wear masks. Social distancing and other protocols will also be required.