“Baffling And Frustrating” – No Word On Shuttered New York City Cinemas As Virus Recedes, Other Venues Set To Reopen

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Wednesday set reopening dates for amusement parks, indoor family recreation centers and summer camps — the latest venues to get a nod as movie theaters in the city remain shuttered. That’s despite Manhattan having the lowest Covid-19 infection rate in New York — 2.5%, confirmed at the governor’s press briefing today — and the fact that zero cases of the virus have been reported from theaters in the rest of the state or anywhere else they’ve been open with strict health and safety protocols.

Cuomo said the the state’s seven-day average positivity rate was down for the 40th straight day on Wednesday at 3.66%.

Joe Masher, president of NATO New York, called the ongoing closures “baffling” and incredibly frustrating.”

“With today’s announcement, we are hopeful that in the short term, the very short term, we will hear news on movie theaters,” said Masher, who is also the CEO of family-owned Bowtie Cinemas.

The governor’s press office didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on the status of theater reopening.

The nursing-home embattled Cuomo told reporters today that indoor family entertainment centers can reopen March 26 at 25% capacity with social distancing rules and temperature checks. That comes after Dave & Buster’s, a big national arcade and restaurant chain, sued the governor earlier this month for what it called an “arbitrary and unconstitutional decision … to close down all arcades statewide while allowing comparable businesses, including casinos, bowling alleys, and video lottery gaming facilities, to remain open.”

Since it filed the suit, the state also gave a green light for indoor dining to resume in the city and large venues like sports stadiums to reopen statewide with fans on Feb. 23. Amusement parks can now open in April at 33% capacity and camps in June, Cuomo said today.

“We have stayed away from lawsuits. Governing during a time of pandemic is hard, and we weren’t successful in New Jersey, so we didn’t think it would be productive,” Masher said. But exhibition finds itself back where it was last fall, hanging breathlessly on every briefing, hopeful, then crushed.

After a world of woes for New York theater owners, Cuomo in October allowed them to reopen at 25% everywhere in the state except in New York City. Then the Covid holiday surge erupted before he moved on Gotham cinemas. “There is always something that seem to delay us, and now we are among the last. It is time,” Masher said. Having key movie markets like New York and Los Angeles closed disrupted the global theatrical business as studios shifted release dates and moved to streaming.

He also urged the governor to consider boosting capacity to 50% because 25% “is not really productive.” Many theaters have upgraded to stadium seating in recent years that already puts more distance between patrons and reduces capacity.

“We have movies on the calendar for May” like Black Widow and F9: The Fast Saga, Masher said. “The studios needs to start marketing these. You’ve seen what’s happened to the industry.”


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