After being shuttered for the better part of a year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that theaters in New York City proper can begin to re-open next month. Starting on Friday, March 5, theaters in the Big Apple will be allowed to open but are restricted to filling their auditoriums at just 25 percent capacity and no more than 50 people allowed inside at one. Requirements for patrons will include masks and assigned seating, with theaters required to have "enhanced air filtration systems." Theaters in New York state outside of the city have been allowed to reopen since October.
Like so many businesses around the globe, movie exhibitionists have been hit especially hard by the coronavirus pandemic. The closure of movie theaters in 2020 and into the present day has resulted in independent theaters and chains struggling to stay afloat even in markets where they're allowed to be opened. The last round of COVID-19 relief that passed through the United States Senate in December, a $900 billion package, also included upwards of $15 billion in funding to be used to help keep movie theaters and other live entertainment venues afloat through the end of the pandemic.
The closure of venues throughout the country, especially in the biggest markets in the country like Los Angeles and New York City, was one of the many reasons that WarnerMedia announced last year that their entire 2021 theatrical slate would be released in theaters where able and on HBO Max at the same time.
AT&T CEO John Stankey previously addressed this and the "noise" from some in Hollywood about the move but said it is ultimately about getting the product to those who are still uneasy about returning to theaters while still supporting the theater experience at the same time. Furthermore he said that their intention to go with this plan for the year didn't mean it would be their marching orders going forward that if people start returning to theaters they will "adjust and work the model differently."
Currently three major movies are scheduled to be released on March 5 including Disney Animation Studios' Raya and the Last Dragon, Lionsgate's long awaited Chaos Walking starring Daisy Ridley and Tom Holland, and the long anticipated Coming 2 America (it's unclear if this film will debut in theaters on that date too, but is scheduled to be released by Amazon Prime Video on the date).
(Cover photo E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune)