By Connor Lambert, Staff Writer
After being shut down for seven months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that movie theaters outside of New York City can reopen starting on Oct. 23. To be able to be allowed to reopen, theaters have several precautions that must be followed to be able to open safely. New York has been holding back on reopening movie theaters despite other states opening around the country. Governor Cuomo stated how movie theaters are riskier, and less essential than other businesses as movie theater owners blamed Cuomo for the long delays.
Some of the new precautions movie theaters must follow are: theaters can reopen starting at 25 percent capacity with up to 50 people per screen. Theaters that open must be below 2 percent on a 14-day average and must have no cluster zones. An obvious but big rule is that masks will be required at all times except when seated and eating/drinking. While assigned seating will be required in all theaters, though theaters must enforce social distancing between parties at all times. Theaters are ordered to have additional staffing to help control occupancy, traffic, and seating to ensure compliance. Finally, theaters are required to meet enhanced air filtration, ventilation, and purification standards.
Despite this, some don’t feel it is safe enough to take the risk. “Absolutely not, to me movie theaters always have been ‘dirty’ and if I went to one it was very rare,” senior broadcasting major Anthony Cavarretta said. “Even with all of the added precautions, I do not feel safe going back to movie theaters.”
As the rest of the country slowly started to open with different reopening phases, New York was different as they kept movie theaters out of the fourth and final phase until they had a good plan. When New York was going slowly into phase four of reopening in the end of June, governor Cuomo announced that movie theaters, malls and gyms will all not be cleared to open in phase four as anticipated. “There are some things that don’t fit neatly into a phase that are going to require further study and we’re going through that right now. This includes evaluating what’s going on in other states to avoid going backwards,” Cuomo senior adviser Rich Azzopardi said at the time of the phase four change. After this change theaters had been waiting until now to finally reopen in New York, wanting New York to open to keep their business afloat theaters have been pleading their case. On Oct. 13, to pressure governor Cuomo to reopen theaters in New York, Regal cinemas put a message on their marquee in times square that read “48 states have reopened theaters so far. Why not New York, Gov. Cuomo #ReopenOurCinemasNY.”
Even with theaters opening up with all the safety precautions some people still are unsure about going back to the movies. Health expert Dr. Chaitanya Mandapakala a pulmonologist and intensive care doctor with St. Elizabeth Healthcare in Kentucky says he loves movies but doesn’t know if it’s a good time yet. “There is no movie that is good enough for me to risk going to a movie theater at this point,” he said. Medical experts around the world are prompting others to follow their advice such as Shelley Dean, a junior theatre major, who wants to appreciate these filmmakers’ work but not until the experts deem it safe. “Personally, until there’s a vaccine or top health officials tell us it’s okay to return back to ‘normal,’ I won’t feel safe going back to the movies. If we can’t even be in school without having to go back online because of COVID-19 cases, it worries me too much to be in another room full of strangers, even with masks and all of these new precautions,” she said.
Dean looks forward to seeing movies and being able to support filmmakers when it is safe. “Many people are out of a job and can’t create, and I’m very excited for the day I can safely go and see their work with films like ‘Avatar 2’ and the new James Bond movie ‘No Time to Die’ but I guess we’ll have to wait and see when they’ll come out,” she said. Despite all the precautions and safety measures taken some aren’t as ready to go back to movie theaters as others.