Movie Theaters Will Reopen in NYC March 2021 at Limited Capacity

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A harbinger of good news to come? Or too much too soon?

The AMC Empire Theater in New York City

One year after New York City originally closed all movie theaters in March 2020, they will now be open again. New York governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that NYC movie theaters will reopen on March 5, 2021 — with lots of stringent safety-oriented policies in place.


Using Cuomo’s exact language, these theaters will be open “at 25% capacity, with no more than 50 people per screen. Assigned seating, social distancing and other health precautions will be in place.” Per the New York Times, “masks will be mandatory,” though coronavirus tests “will not be required.” And in accordance with health officials’ concerns that the virus spreads more strongly in indoor settings, “theaters that open will be required to have enhanced air filtration systems.”

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

“Theater owners are pleased with the announcement that New York City movie theaters will be allowed to safely reopen. 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. New York City is a major market for moviegoing in the U.S.; reopening there gives confidence to film distributors in setting and holding their theatrical release dates, and is an important step in the recovery of the entire industry. We look forward to expanding the capacity from 25 percent to 50 percent in the very near future so that theaters can operate profitably.”

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Image by Newmarket Films

I don’t know about y’all, but this kind of concerns me! Granted, 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 opening one of the largest markets in the country does provide the business with a good jolt, especially when it comes to big movies maintaining their release dates — but about our nation’s relationship with the pandemic. Vaccines are getting sent everywhere, cases are dipping, and now we can see movies in one of the biggest cities in the world!

But we’re absolutely not out of the woods yet. There’s no way the majority of people choosing to see a film in NYC will be vaccinated, and while I like the mask requirement, I don’t like not having testing. Cases in NYC may be dropping, but good God there are still a lot every day. And from a less “existential threat” and more “pragmatic concern for consumers” standpoint — what the heck are movie theaters gonna show? Smaller distributors will be grateful for a new market to put their product in outside of drive-ins and streaming, and Warner Bros. has a slew of big new releases coming to theaters in addition to their same-day HBO Max rollout. But the majority of new, wide release movies are still waiting for a more national indication of good covid news before releasing anything.

Will this New York news be the first in a positive domino that leads to titles like Black Widow seeing national releases sooner than later? Will LA, the other biggest moviegoing market, be next to open their theaters? All I know is what I can control, and that is this: I won’t see an indoor movie until I have a vaccine in my arm. I encourage whoever’s reading to make the same choice.

KEEP READING: 2021 Movie Release Dates: Here’s What’s Coming to Theaters This Year

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