New York City Cinemas Allowed to Open at 25% Capacity Starting March 5

Regal's Union Square location in Manhattan. Image courtesy Regal.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that cinemas in New York City will be allowed to open at 25 percent capacity starting on March 5, with a maximum per-screen capacity of 50 people–putting an end to months of frustration surrounding an absent reopening timeline for one of North America’s two largest markets.

New York State cinemas in counties that hit certain benchmarks for Covid-19 infection rates were given permission by Governor Cuomo to operate at limited capacity in October of last year—with the notable exception of New York City, where cinemas had been ordered to close by Mayor De Blasio on March 16, 2020. In the near-year since that point, neither De Blasio nor Cuomo have offered any indication until today of when NYC cinemas might be allowed to resume operation.

A lack of clarity about when the key markets of New York City and Los Angeles might be able to see a return to moviegoing has contributed to an ongoing wave of release date shifts that has seen many major tentpoles pushed into the latter half of 2021 and into 2022.

Cuomo’s March 5 date aligns with the release of Disney/Pixar’s Raya and the Last Dragon, which debuts in theaters and on Disney Plus on that date. Other films slated for theatrical release in the month of March include Chaos Walking (Lionsgate, March 5), The King’s Man (20th Century Studios, March 12), and Godzilla vs Kong (Warner Bros., March 31).

Says President Joe Masher of NATO of NY, which has been integral in lobbying for NYC theaters to be allowed to reopen:

“We are thrilled that Governor Cuomo has announced theaters in New York City can reopen on March 5th!  NATO’s CinemaSafe Protocols have allowed theaters nationwide to operate safely with zero cases traced to a movie theater, and we are excited to entertain New Yorkers once again.  I hope the studios now have confidence to return to the traditional theatrical distribution model and hold their release dates as planned.  We will work with Governor Cuomo’s team to expand the allowed capacity from 25% to 50% in the coming weeks.”

Adds Patrick Corcoran, Vice President & Chief Communications Officer at NATO:

“Theater owners are pleased with the announcement that New York City movie theaters will be allowed to safely re-open. Stringent voluntary health and safety protocols have made it possible for cinemas across the country to operate safely and responsibly at higher capacity limits for many months without a single outbreak of COVID-19 being traced to movie theaters. New York City is a major market for moviegoing in the U.S.; 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.  We look forward to expanding the capacity from 25% to 50% in the very near future so that theatres can operate profitably.”

In a statement following Governor Cuomo’s remarks, AMC Theatres CEO Adam Aron announced all thirteen of the chain’s New York City locations met the state’s re-opening guidelines and would begin welcoming moviegoers on March 5.

“Governor Cuomo’s announcement that movie theatres can reopen in New York City in the first week of March is another important step towards restoring the health of the movie theatre industry and of our Company. We are excited to announce that AMC, the largest movie theatre exhibitor in New York City, will reopen all 13 of our theatres in New York City beginning March 5. We will do so with the highest devotion to the health and safety of our guests and associates through our AMC Safe & Clean policies and protocols, which were developed in consultation with Clorox and with current and former faculty at the prestigious Harvard University School of Public Health. AMC Safe & Clean includes social distancing & automatic seat blocking in each auditorium, mandatory mask wearing, and upgraded air filtration with MERV-13 air filters, as well as many other important health, sanitization and cleanliness efforts.”

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