Theaters in New York City will be able to open for the first time in nearly a year on March 5, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced at a news conference Monday.
Theaters will only be able to operate at 25 percent of their maximum capacity, with no more than 50 people per screening. Masks will be mandatory and theaters must assign seats to patrons to ensure adequate social distancing. Testing for the virus will not be required.
Theaters with similar boundaries were allowed to open in the rest of the state at the end of October, but New York City was excluded for fear that the city’s density would accelerate the spread of the virus there.
The virus has hit the movie industry. In October, the owner of Regal Cinemas, America’s second-largest theater chain, temporarily closed its theaters as Hollywood studios continued to postpone premieres and wary audiences hesitated to return to screenings. AMC, the world’s largest movie theater chain, has come ever closer to bankruptcy.
The economic effects of the pandemic have been particularly felt in New York City, one of the largest film markets in the United States. The city’s theaters closed in mid-March, as the region was becoming an epicenter of the pandemic in the country.
While other closed businesses were allowed to open in the city, including restaurants, bowling alleys, and museums, Mr. Cuomo kept movie theaters closed for fear that people would be sitting inside stuffy movie theaters for hours, risking further spread. of the virus.
Theaters that open will be required to have improved air filtration systems. Public health experts say that when considering indoor gatherings, the quality of ventilation is key because the virus is known to spread more easily indoors.
Mr. Cuomo’s announcement was applauded by the National Association of Theater Owners.
“New York City is an important market for going to the movies in America; the reopening gives film distributors confidence to set and celebrate their theatrical release dates, and is an important step in the recovery of the entire industry, “the association said in a statement.
The move came just days after Cuomo said that indoor family entertainment centers and entertainment venues could reopen statewide, at 25 percent of maximum capacity, on March 26. Outdoor amusement parks may open with a 33 percent capacity limit in April.
The governor also said the state was working on guidelines to allow billiard and billiard rooms to reopen after the state lost a lawsuit from pool hall operators. Those establishments will be allowed to reopen at 50 percent capacity with necessary masks, he said.
Cases in New York remain high despite falling from their January peak. During the past seven days, the state averaged 38 cases per 100,000 residents each day, through Sunday. That’s the second-highest per capita rate of new cases in the past week in the country, after South Carolina.