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Photograph: Shutterstock/WoodysPhotosAMC Movie Theater

New York movie theaters outside NYC can reopen with capacity limits

Theaters are allowed to reopen as soon as this Friday, October 23.

By
Collier Sutter
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The future looks less grim for the film industry.

After months of radio silence from officials about when movie theaters can reopen, Governor Andrew Cuomo finally announced on Saturday that most New York theaters will be allowed to reopen on October 23—except for those in New York City.

At reopened theaters, all moviegoers will be required to wear masks for the entire movie experience, unless eating or drinking, which seems like a loophole, causing us some serious eyebrow-raising. Seating will be assigned and patrons will be required to sit at least two unoccupied seats (or six feet) apart if in the same row.

Showtimes will be staggered to allow time for disinfecting between showings and to avoid gathering outside the theater. Other mandatory rules include limiting capacity to 25%, and not exceeding 50 people per viewing screen. Plexiglass barriers—just like we’ve seen for outdoor dining and in beauty salons—are required when social distancing is not possible such as for ticketing, concessions and cash registers.

In the coming weeks, theaters must also pay close attention to their air filtration systems—a category that takes up a lot of space in Cuomo’s mandatory requirements and best practices. Theaters are required to have central HVAC system filtration “meeting the highest-rated filtration compatible with the currently installed filter rack and air handling systems.” You can find more information on the air filtering benchmarks here.

New York State reopening theaters is a monumental step forward, AMC CEO Adam Aron told CNBC. Many studios are not willing to release a blockbuster film until key major markets are open. Plus, movies that perform well at box offices in New York generate more buzz, which means more tickets are sold in other parts of the country.

“AMC has been able to open our theaters across the country,” Aron says. “Now that we can open in New York, New York State first, but that means New York City is right behind. That also means that the Christmas movies are going to hold.”

Theater owners wonder whether or not flicks like Wonder Woman 1984 will still come out on Christmas Day. 

AMC locations reopening in New York, such as those in Nassau County and Suffolk County in Long Island and Upstate, will show movie titles such as Tenet, The War with Grandpa, Honest Thief and 2 HeartsThe Empty Man, Come Play, Let Him Go, Freaky, The Croods: A New Age, Happiest Season, among others.

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