Get the popcorn and soft drinks ready because movie theaters are coming back. At least with limitations.
Movie theaters, which have been closed since mid-March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, have been given the go-ahead to open their doors on Friday.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said movie theaters outside of New York City may reopen Friday at 25% capacity, with a maximum of 50 people per screen. Mr. Cuomo, in a press briefing Saturday, said theaters outside of New York City in counties with an infection rate below 2% over a 14-day period and no cluster zones may open.
It will not be business as usual, though. The openings come with restrictions:
• Masks will be required at all times, except when patrons are seated and eating or drinking.
• Assigned seating will be required in all theaters.
• Social distancing between parties will be required at all times.
• Additional staffing is required to control occupancy, traffic and seating to ensure compliance.
• Theaters will be required to meet enhanced air filtration, ventilation and purification standards.
Limitations aside, National Association of Theater Owners of New York president Joseph Masher said: “It’s a very good step. We’re very thrilled that the governor allowed us to reopen. We’ve been open in 48 other states since June, basically, with zero percent of COVID transmission in the movie theater. It’s zero, so we know we can operate safely. People are thrilled to come back to the movies.’’
The shutdown has provided the biggest hit the movie theater industry has ever suffered, according to Mr. Masher. “I know there are some theaters that won’t be reopening,” he said.
Before pandemic-related furloughs and layoffs, the state had over 10,000 movie theater employees, the majority of them working in New York City, said Mr. Masher.
What has been the economic impact because of the loss of activity for the state’s movie theaters?
Mr. Masher couldn’t furnish a precise number but indicated the dollar figure is staggering. “It’s hundreds and hundreds of millions,” he said.
Those theaters that do reopen could face another issue: What films will be available to show?
With the exception of “Wonder Woman,” currently scheduled for a Christmas Day debut, Mr. Masher said Hollywood blockbuster movies will not hit screens until theaters in the major markets of New York City and Los Angeles are opened. “There are no huge movies out at this time,” he said. “There’s nothing that people are clamoring to see en masse until ‘Wonder Woman.’ ”
Attempts to reach Mattituck Cinemas for comment through Cardinal Management LLC, owner of the Mattituck Plaza property where the theater is located, were unsuccessful.