Movie theaters have been slowly, nervously reopening across the nation, despite the fact that coronavirus cases continue to spike. One place that has kept multiplexes shuttered is New York State, one of the first places in America to be hit hard by the pandemic. Even as cases have largely shrunk, and even as indoor dining has returned with limited capacity, Governor Andrew Cuomo has held steadfast in his belief that theaters are good places for high infection rates. But now, as per The Hollywood Reporter, he’s changed his mind — sort of.
THR reports that Cuomo is allowing theaters to reopen across the state, with two caveats: They have to be limited capacity, and theaters in New York City will remain closed. Neither is surprising. Most theaters that have reopened have done so with a laundry list of COVID-19 precautions, and Cuomo’s orders include 25 percent capacity, or about 50 people per showing. There’s more:
During Cuomo’s afternoon press conference, he noted theaters will only open outside of New York City in counties that are below 2 percent COVID-19 positivity on a 14-day average and have no “cluster zones.” Safety precautions also include the wearing of masks at all times except when seated and eating and drinking, and social distancing between parties. Assigned seating will be required in all theaters.
As for New York City — one of the biggest moviegoing markets in the nation, with not just multiplex chains but a vast array of art house and repertory theaters — it will keep on keepin’ on. The metropolis was once the global epicenter of the pandemic, and though cases have plateaued, they have been on the rise in certain neighborhoods, jeopardizing everyone else. Meanwhile, Broadway theaters won’t be opening till the spring, and even that’s tentative.
Cuomo’s about-face comes a couple weeks after the Global Cinema Federation sent a letter to Cuomo, begging him to help save an ailing industry.
“Without new movies to play in our cinemas, many members of the global exhibition community will be forced to close their doors again. Many of these companies will not survive,” stated the letter. “On August 19 you said, ‘movie theaters, I think, are next.’ More than a month later, there is still no clear path for movie theater reopenings in New York. This state of limbo, with no set reopening plans or dates, is what is scaring the studios away from releasing their films this year.”
Theaters that can reopen in New York State are set to do so on October 23. Among the big films still slated to hit theaters before the end of the year are Wonder Woman: 1984, scheduled for December 25.