New York City Movie Theaters To Reopen Next Month At Limited Capacity

After nearly a year of being completely shut down because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, New York City movie theaters are reopening. Starting early March, New York City movie theaters will be permitted to reopen at limited capacity — with strict restrictions in place, of course.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced at a press conference Monday that New York City movie theaters will be allowed to reopen starting March 5, at at a 25% limited capacity, or no more than 50 people in one auditorium. Masks, assigned seating, and advanced air filtration will be required in all theaters.

"Movie theaters in New York will be brought in line with the rest of the state: 25% capacity; no more than 50 people per screening; masks; assigned seating; social distancing; staff to control occupancy, traffic and seating to ensure compliance," Cuomo said. "They need the enhanced air filtration, ventilation and purification standards that DOH has specified."

While some movie theaters just outside of New York City were allowed to reopen last fall, many were forced to shut down again because of a surge in cases.

Cuomo has been criticized for keeping theaters closed while allowing bars and gyms to reopen, as well as increasing indoor dining capacity at restaurants. The New York governor has repeatedly claimed that the state has seen the end of its post-holiday COVID-19 spike, while warning of the emergence of highly contagious new strains like the B.1.1.7 strain first identified in the United Kingdom. New York's COVID numbers have been on a steady decline, however, reporting a weekly average of 7,400 Covid-19 cases daily, down more than 13% decline from a week ago and the state's lowest average since the beginning of December, according to a CNBC analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

"Theater owners are pleased with the announcement that New York City movie theaters will be allowed to safely re-open," the National Association of Theatre Owners said in a statement. "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."

The second largest moviegoing market in the country, right behind Los Angeles, New York's reopening will be a huge boon for the Hollywood box office.  It's no coincidence that New York's theaters will reopen on the date that Disney's Raya and the Last Dragon will be premiering both in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access. If Raya and the Last Dragon becomes a genuine box office success thanks to a push from New York theaters, it might lead to Disney abandoning its day-and-date releases in favor of strictly theatrical of its major films. But while New York's reopening is a major success for studios, it's still unclear if it will be enough for Los Angeles, whose COVID numbers still remain high, to follow suite. Or if it's a wise decision as the U.S. passes 500,000 COVID deaths.