New York City Cinemas Reopen After A Year of Closures

By Estelle Anderson

New York, NY

New York City theatres are allowed to open at 25 percent capacity (Photo Credit: The New York Times)

After nearly a year of COVID-19 shutdowns, New York City cinema has emerged from the darkness, with many chain and independent movie theatres reopening on March 5. This development comes during a depressing time for the movie theatre industry, which has recently grappled with bankruptcy and the rapid rise of digital streaming services.


“Since reopening our first theatres with AMC Safe & Clean in August, AMC has welcomed back nearly 10 million moviegoers nationwide without a single reported case of COVID-19 transmission among moviegoers at our theatres,” movie theatre giant AMC Entertainment said in a recent release.


New York Governor Andrew Cuomo gave the green light to cinemas on February 22. The Department of Health requires that all theatres enforce social distancing and masking (unless when eating or drinking) and meet air filtration and ventilation guidelines. New York City theatres are allowed to open at 25 percent capacity, with no more than 50 moviegoers per screen; the National Association of Theatre Owners, however, has requested that the governor’s office increase the maximum capacity to 50 percent for luxury recliner-seated auditoriums, such as AMC’s 84th Street location. AMC theatres still plan to sell concessions, although moviegoers are encouraged to pre-order popcorn and soft drinks online.


Together, New York City and Los Angeles make up twelve to fourteen percent of the domestic box office. The opening of New York City theatres thus has hopeful implications for the national movie industry, demonstrated by recent surges in AMC Entertainment’s stock (though some of this was also due to trends on Reddit largely independent from AMC’s actual performance). Whether post-pandemic prospects for movie theatres are truly bright, however, remains uncertain, especially as the film industry continues to look towards a digital future.


Prior to the pandemic, the exclusivity window for movie theatres was 90 days, meaning that theatres had this period of time to show films before they could be watched on digital platforms. Warner Brothers, however, abandoned this theatrical exclusivity model in December by making its entire 2021 movie slate available on HBO Max, releasing films like Wonder Woman 1984 at the same time that they were shown at theatres. Time will tell if other major production companies will follow suit.


For New Yorkers who plan to venture to theatres in the coming weeks, there is a range of movies to choose from, including Nomadland, winner of the Golden Globe for Best Drama, and Judas and the Black Messiah, for which Daniel Kaluuya won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture. Other releases include Tom and Jerry, Promising Young Woman, and several flicks released in late 2020, including Wonder Woman 1984 and Tenet. Along with AMC theatres, other smaller cinemas that have reopened include Nitehawk Cinema Williamsburg, Angelika Film Center, and Village East Cinema.

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