NYC's Move May Ripple Through Movie Industry

Nation's No. 2 market allows theaters to reopen, with restrictions
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 5, 2021 11:08 AM CST
In Massive Boost to Movie Industry, NYC Theaters Reopen
New York City's cinemas have been closed for just short of a year.   (Getty Images)

After almost a year, moviegoers are being allowed to return to theaters in New York City—and the Friday reopening is expected to have implications far beyond the Big Apple. The city, America's second-biggest movie market after Los Angeles, where cinemas are still closed, is allowing theaters to reopen with numerous restrictions, Time Out reports. Masks will be mandatory when not eating or drinking, and cinemas are restricted to 25% of capacity, or about 50 people per screen. Assigned seating and enhanced air filtration systems also will be required. Theaters in New York City have been closed since March 17 last year. It is the last region of New York state to allow cinemas to reopen. More:

  • Blockbusters could soon follow. Quartz notes that Hollywood has a backlog of blockbusters it has been waiting to release, and with New York opening up, it might stick to the spring release dates for movies like Black Widow instead of delaying them again.

  • NATO (the other NATO) wants looser restrictions. The National Association of Theater Owners praised the New York reopening as "an important step in the recovery of the entire industry," but said it hopes capacity limits will be raised soon. "We look forward to expanding the capacity from 25% to 50% in the very near future so that theaters can operate profitably," NATO said in a statement.
  • Not every cinema is reopening. AMC, whose stock jumped 15% after the reopening was announced, is reopening its New York theaters, but Regal plans to wait until capacity is raised to 50%. Numerous independent cinemas also plan to stay closed for now, because of safety fears and worries that they won't be able to turn a profit at 25% capacity, Gothamist reports.
  • Low attendance elsewhere could soon change. Attendance has been low in Chicago and other cities that have already reopened cinemas, but that may have more to with the lack of movies than safety fears, reports NPR. "It's entirely because of New York and LA being closed that other major markets simply don't have major movies to play," says NATO vice president Patrick Corcoran. "Movies opening in New York and LA will give studios confidence that their larger titles are going to open well and do 'ell, across the country, and internationally."
  • 'Strong pent-up demand.' Scott Rosemann, who oversees cinemas in several states for Reading International, tells the BBC he is optimistic about the reopening. "In other markets when we first opened, we knew people were reluctant to come back," he says, but some upcoming NYC screenings have already sold out. "It's exciting," he says. "We just feel like there's strong pent-up demand."
  • Liam Neeson will welcome moviegoers. Liam Neeson, star of The Marksman, will personally welcome New Yorkers back to the cinema before a Friday evening showing at AMC Lincoln Square in Manhattan. "This is one for the diary," Neeson told the Hollywood Reporter earlier this week. "It will be nice to welcome people. I think going to the cinema is a bit of a sacred experience. I've felt that way since I was a kid."
  • "There's excitement, there's panic." Theater operators say they had to scramble to rehire staff, restock concessions, and meet safety requirements after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week that city cinemas could reopen, Variety reports. "There’s excitement, and there’s panic," says Matthew Viragh, the founder of Nitehawk Cinema. "It got sprung on us in under 10 days notice. It’s very jolting."
  • Is it safe? Quartz notes that as long as there is good ventilation, movie theaters are considered safer than indoor dining—and there have not been any US coronavirus outbreaks linked to theaters.
(More movie industry stories.)

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