An omen of good news to come? Or too soon?

The AMC Empire Theater in New York City

One year after New York City originally closed all theaters in March 2020will now be open again. Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo has announced that New York theaters will reopen on March 5, 2021, with many strict security-oriented policies.

Using Cuomo’s exact language, these cinemas will be open “at 25% capacity, with no more than 50 people per screen. Seating, social distancing and other health precautions will be assigned.” According to the New York Times, “masks will be mandatory,” although coronavirus tests “will not be necessary.” And in keeping with health officials’ concerns that the virus is spreading more strongly indoors, “theaters that open will need to have improved air filtration systems.”

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The National Association of Theater Owners (NATO), whose industry has obviously seen all kinds of financial blows during this pandemic, released this statement on Cuomo’s decision:

“Theater owners are pleased with the announcement that the safe reopening of New York City theaters will be allowed. Strict voluntary health and safety protocols have made it possible for theaters across the country to operate safely. and responsible with higher capacity limits for many months with no single COVID-19 outbreak dating back to movie theaters. New York City is a major market for cinema in the US; reopening there provides trust film distributors to set and maintain their theatrical release dates, and is an important step in the recovery of the entire industry. We hope to expand capacity from 25 to 50 percent in the very near future so that cinemas can operate profitably. ”


Image by Newmarket Films

I don’t know about you, but this worries me! Okay, as NATO says, much of the country has had movie theaters open for many months, including other areas of New York State; AMC Theaters lists 40 states with theaters that are still open. And it also gives a general sense of optimism not just about the movie theater business, and the opening of one of the largest markets in the country gives the business a good shakeup, especially when it comes to big movies that keep their dates. premiere, but on our nation’s relationship with the pandemic. Vaccines are being shipped everywhere, cases are dropping, and now we can watch movies in one of the largest cities in the world.

But we are not out of the woods yet. There is no way that most people who choose to watch a movie in New York get vaccinated, and while I like the mask requirement, I don’t like not being tested. Cases in New York may be declining, but My God, there are still so many every day. And from a less “existential threat” and more “pragmatic concern for consumers” point of view, what the heck are theaters going to show? Smaller distributors will be grateful for a new market to put their product outside of drive-ins and streaming, and Warner Bros. has a host of major new releases hitting theaters in addition to the HBO Max launch on the same day. But most new and big-release movies are still waiting for a more national indication of good news from Covid before releasing anything.

Will this news from New York be the first of a positive domino that leads to titles like Black widow watching national releases sooner rather than later? Will LA, the other largest film market, be the next to open its cinemas? All I know is what I can control, and it is this: I will not watch a movie indoors until I have a vaccine in my arm. I encourage anyone reading to make the same choice.

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