Cinemas in New York City will be allowed to reopen for the first time in almost a year on March 5th, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced at a press conference on Monday.
The theaters may only be operated with 25 percent of their maximum capacity and not more than 50 people per performance. Masks are mandatory, and theaters must allocate seating for guests to ensure adequate social distancing. Tests for the virus are not required.
Theaters were allowed to open in the rest of the state with similar restrictions in late October, but New York City was ruled out on concerns that the city’s density would accelerate the spread of the virus there.
The virus has hit the cinema industry. In October, the owner of Regal Cinemas, the second largest cinema chain in the United States, temporarily closed its theaters as Hollywood studios kept postponing releases and cautious audiences reluctant to return to screenings. AMC Entertainment, the world’s largest cinema chain, has increasingly gone bankrupt.
The economic impact of the pandemic was particularly felt in New York City, one of the largest film markets in the United States. Theaters in the city closed in mid-March as the region became an epicenter of the pandemic in the country.
While other indoor businesses, including restaurants, bowling alleys and museums, were allowed to open in the city, Mr Cuomo had closed the cinemas out of concern that people would sit inside for hours in poorly ventilated theaters to risk the spread of the virus.
Theaters that are opened must have improved air filtration systems. Public health experts say that when considering indoor gatherings, the quality of ventilation is vital, as the virus is known to spread more easily indoors.
Mr. Cuomo’s announcement was welcomed by the National Association of Theater Owners.
“New York City is an important market for moviegoers in the US. The reopening gives film distributors confidence in the determination and compliance with their theatrical releases and is an important step for the recovery of the entire industry, “the association said in a statement.
In a statement, AMC CEO Adam Aron said the company will open all 13 theaters in New York City on March 5.
The move came just days after Mr Cuomo said indoor family entertainment centers and amusement venues could reopen nationwide on March 26, with a maximum capacity of 25 percent. Outdoor amusement parks are allowed to open in April with a capacity limit of 33 percent.
The governor also said the state was working on guidelines that would allow pool and billiard halls to reopen after the state lost a lawsuit from pool hall operators. These facilities are 50 percent allowed to reopen with required masks, he said.
Falls in New York remain high, despite having climbed from their January peak. For the past seven days, the state had an average of 38 cases per 100,000 people per day on Sunday. This is the second highest per capita new case rate in the country in the past week, after South Carolina.