New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that, outside of New York City, movie theaters in the state can reopen beginning Friday, October 23. Cuomo made the announcement during a Saturday press briefing that theaters can open doors to 25% capacity, with a maximum of 50 people allowed per screen.
The new rule applies only to counties with a COVID-19 infection rate less than 2% on a 14-day average, and with no cluster zones. Masks are required at all times except when seated and eating or drinking, which has already been a commonplace standard among those theaters throughout the country open so far.
Assigned seating will be required in all theaters (which means even those not equipped for assigned seating). Social distancing will be required at all times. Additional staffing will also be required to control crowds, general traffic, and seating in order to ensure compliance. Theaters will also be required to meet air filtration, ventilation, and purification standards.
The news comes as a domestic box office struggles without the crucial markets of New York or Los Angeles open, with theater chains like Cineworld-owned Regal shuttered throughout the nation. There’s also the lack of new product, with the majority of major studio movies either pushed to streaming (like Disney/Pixar’s “Soul”) or into next year entirely (Warner Bros.’ “Dune” and MGM/United Artists’ “No Time to Die”).
The news also arrives as New York exhibitors have been pleading with Cuomo to be allowed to open their doors. Recently, a letter signed by leaders of AMC, Cinemark, Cineplex, and Cineworld on behalf of the executive committee of the Global Cinema Federation asked Cuomo to loosen up on the state’s theaters, which have been shut down since March.
“We recognize your commitment to ensuring that the citizens of New York remain safe and protected from COVID-19. With certain zip codes in New York seeing spikes of the virus, we are, of course, not suggesting that you open the entire state at once. We are, however, requesting that you adopt a plan similar to that in California, where Governor Newsom has allowed openings on a county-by-county basis according to virus data,” the letter said.
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