An open letter by the executive committee of the Global Cinema Federation (GCF), a worldwide grouping of major cinema operators and internationally-active trade bodies representing cinema exhibition’s global interests, is urging New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to help open the state’s cinemas.
The trade group represents the interests of over 100 companies, including exhibitors and trade associations in six continents and over 90 countries, employing hundreds of thousands of staff members worldwide.
As exhibitors around the world continue to grapple with continuous rescheduling of major titles by the Hollywood studios, the GCF has focused its attention on establishing a reopening timeline for the state of New York in order to mitigate future date changes.
Noting the state’s early response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the GCF executive committee is requesting New York “adopt a plan similar to that in California, (which) has allowed openings on a county-by-county basis according to virus data.”
Without such a plan, “the studios that supply new movies have been reluctant to release their latest films to the point where almost no new major films will be released globally until 2021 and beyond. 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.”
The state of New York hosts the largest DMA in the North American market, and also plays a crucial role in the cinema industry as a global capital of culture and finance. New York is only one of two U.S. states where cinemas remain closed; it has offered no guidance to a potential return for movie theaters across the state.
“Moreover,” the letter continues, “as of today, there are no reported cases associated with cinemas, despite the fact that cinemas in countries like Korea, Japan, and Sweden remained open for most of the initial period of the pandemic and the additional fact that in different countries and in different parts of the United States, cinemas have been open for three to four months since lockdowns were lifted.”
GCF membership consists of over 100 companies including exhibitors and trade associations in six continents and over 90 countries, and hundreds of thousands of employees worldwide.
The letter is reproduced in its entirety below:
October 14, 2020
The Honorable Andrew Cuomo
State of New York
Albany, New York 12224
Dear Governor Cuomo,
We write to you today as the Executive Committee of the Global Cinema Federation (GCF), a worldwide grouping of major cinema operators and internationally-active trade bodies representing cinema exhibition’s global interests. On behalf of the GCF, we would like to thank you and your staff for your tireless work and leadership throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Given the progress the State of New York has made in combating the pandemic and the additional steps exhibitors are taking to keep their patrons and staff safe, we humbly ask that you reconsider your decision to keep movie theaters in the State closed.
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.
Along with our partners at the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), the GCF has been working with the exhibition community to develop and implement guidelines to create the safest possible environment for moviegoers around the World.
As we are sure you are aware, NATO’s CinemaSafe protocols for movie theaters have been vetted and approved by leading epidemiologists for their ability to minimize the risk of transmission, requiring that proper social distancing is observed at all times and that patrons wear masks or other facial coverings when not consuming food and beverage products, as well as reducing auditorium capacity, improving HVAC systems, and many other measures. With these guidelines in place, evidence strongly suggests that the movie-going experience is safer than other activities such as indoor dining or attending religious services.
In fact, according to the study titled, “Quantitative assessment of the risk of airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 Infection: Prospective and retrospective applications” by doctors G. Buonanno, L. Morawska and L. Stabile, a silent person emits 14 times less potentially infectious particles than a person who is speaking and 90 times less than a person who is singing or loudly speaking. Within the environment of a cinema, moviegoers are silent, unlike diners who chat over their meal, or churchgoers who pray and sing. Furthermore, according to the scientists, even in a small indoor setting, it would take approximately 192 minutes (or over 3 hours) for an infected patient to contaminate the space if the patient is sedentary. The risk is further diminished in a large well-ventilated movie theater auditorium where guests are facing one direction, wearing masks and not speaking.
Moreover, as of today, there are no reported cases associated with cinemas, despite the fact that cinemas in countries like Korea, Japan, and Sweden remained open for most of the initial period of the pandemic and the additional fact that in different countries and in different parts of the United States, cinemas have been open for three to four months since lockdowns were lifted. The study, “What settings have been linked to SARS-CoV-2 transmission clusters? [version 2; peer review: 2 approved]” by Quentin J. Leclerc, Naomi M. Fuller, Lisa E. Knight, CMMID COVID-19 Working Group, Sebastian Funk, and Gwenan M. Knight analyzed 200 cases of massive infection and none were related to a cinema. Additionally, Leclerc, Fuller and Knight are part of the team behind covid19settings.blogspot, which has compiled over 1,500 cases of massive infections around the globe – none of which are related to a cinema operation.
Despite this data and the proactive steps of the CinemaSafe protocols, one challenge remains: access to new film product. The State of New York is an important market for the exhibition industry, not only in the United States but also around the World. With New York’s theaters shuttered for nearly seven months and no indication of when they will be allowed to reopen, the studios that supply new movies have been reluctant to release their latest films to the point where almost no new major films will be released globally until 2021 and beyond. 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.
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. Our industry employs hundreds of thousands of people throughout the World, all of whom are eager to get back to work and entertain their customers in a safe environment. It is genuinely no exaggeration to say that the continued closure of cinemas in your state has put their future in jeopardy, and we ask that exhibitors in New York be given the opportunity to operate again. We welcome the opportunity to meet with you and work together on a plan to reopen New York’s cinemas.
Alejandro Ramirez Magaña
Chairman, Global Cinema Federation
And the undersigned members of the Executive Committee:
Adam Aron, CEO, AMC Theatres
Mark Zoradi, CEO, Cinemark
Ellis Jacob, CEO, Cineplex
Mooky Greidinger, CEO, Cineworld
Jane Hastings, CEO, Event Cinemas
Aurélien Bosc, CEO, Les Cinémas Pathé Gaumont
John Fithian, CEO, National Association of Theatre Owners
Ajay Bijli, Chairman, PVR Cinemas
Takayuki Ikeda, President, Toho Cinemas Ltd.
Laura Houlgatte, CEO, UNIC
Tim Richards, CEO, VUE International
John Zeng, CEO, Wanda