NYC movie theaters to reopen next month with mask requirement, social distancing

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Joseph Spector, New York State Team
·2 min read
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Movie theaters are coming back to the Big Apple.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that all the state's movie theaters – including in New York City – can reopen starting March 5. Most of the theaters outside the city had already started to reopen after an October order allowed them to do so with limited capacity and COVID-19 safety measures.

Reopening rules for the city's movie theaters include:

  • Venues are restricted to 25% capacity, with no more than 50 people per screen at a time.

  • Masks will be required except when seated and eating or drinking.

  • Assigned seating will be required.

  • Social distancing will be required at all times.

  • Additional staffing will be required to control occupancy, traffic and seating.

  • Enhanced air filtration, ventilation and purification standards must be met.

More: 15 films we (hopefully!) will see in a movie theater in 2021, from 'Suicide Squad' to 'Top Gun 2'

Cuomo has pushed to start easing COVID-19 restrictions on businesses this year in hopes of jumpstarting an economy hit by a drop in sales tax revenue.

After the holidays, the state weathered a mid-January spike in cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

Cases and hospitalizations are now dropping overall statewide, but parts of New York City – particularly the Bronx – are still seeing high rates of infection and slower declines in hospitalization.

Cuomo’s move drew praise from theater owners who have pushed for months for the governor to ease restrictions, and who hope Cuomo will soon expand capacity to 50%.

“New York City is a major market for moviegoing in the U.S.,” said Patrick Corcoran, a spokesperson for the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO). “Re-opening there gives confidence to film distributors in setting and holding their theatrical release dates, and is an important step in the recovery of the entire industry.”

According to NATO, New York City accounts for roughly 5% of the national box office. Theaters in the nation's other biggest movie market, Los Angeles, are still shuttered with no known plans to reopen.

Monday's announcement is welcome news for beleaguered theater owners, after domestic ticket sales fell to a nearly 40-year low last year due to the pandemic. Though smaller films continue to open in theaters where available, the next major theatrical release on the calendar is Disney/Marvel's "Black Widow" May 7, just over a year after its originally scheduled release last May.

Contributing: Associated Press, Patrick Ryan

More: Movie theaters vs. drive-ins: What a drive-in theater does (or doesn't) offer

This article originally appeared on New York State Team: NYC movie theaters can reopen March 5 at 25% capacity