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NYC movie theaters beg Gov. Cuomo to reopen to cope with financial losses

Andreas Praefcke | Wikimedia Commons

Instead of displaying upcoming movie titles, a Regal movie theater in Times Square is desperately confronting Gov. Cuomo on its marquee.

“48 states have reopened theaters so far. Why not New York, Gov. Cuomo? #ReopenOurCinemasNY,” the marquee reads.

Gov. Cuomo reassured theaters back in August that they’d be ready to reopen soon. Two months later, movie theaters are still closed while other businesses are allowed to open their indoor dining and gyms venues.

“Playing nothing. Starring nobody,” reads The Aurora Theatre’s marquee in East Aurora, New York.

Gov. Cuomo’s response to the marquee messages, according to Vanity Fair, is that theaters will be allowed to open at 25% capacity with a 50 person per-theater limit in New York State on Oct. 23, but not in New York City. Masks, assigned seating and social distancing will be mandatory for moviegoers.

To lessen the spread of COVID-19 Gov. Cuomo said that theaters can open in counties that have residents with a COVID-19 positivity count of less than 2% over a 14-day average. Likewise, the county must not be a part of one of the COVID-19 “cluster zones.”

Although some theaters have the chance to make up for lost revenue, other theaters like Regal are too far in debt. Cineworld Group, the company that owns Regal theaters, has lost more than 67% of its revenue since New York businesses were on lockdown. As a result, Regal announced on Oct. 5 that it is closing all 536 of its locations in the U.S.

Many movies scheduled to play in theaters, like No Time To Die, have pushed their release dates to 2021 while other movies, like Mulan were put on streaming services.

By the first weekend of October, 2,931 U.S. movie theaters, or 57% of the country’s total movie theaters reopened, which only generated $12 million. To put this value in perspective, $96.2 million was generated last year — $84.2 million more than this year — during the first weekend of October, when Joker was first released.

While people transition to online streaming services to watch movies, some are fearful of the possible extinction of other theater chains. Other people like Stephen Beck, a management consultant for boutique consulting firm cg42, argued that the movie theater industry won’t go out of business because of the unique culture viewers experience.

“What Regal announced is obviously terrible but I don’t think the business is gone by any stretch of the imagination,” Beck said. “Its scale and scope might be different but I don’t believe the theater business as an industry is gone.”

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