New York state on Monday published its reopening guidelines for movie theaters, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo has allowed to open (except in New York City and a handful of counties) on Friday for the first time since March.
The guidelines don’t hold many surprises for operators that are already set up to adhere to stringent CinemaSafe protocols developed by NATO with exhibitors and health experts. But it will allow them to dot the i’s and cross the t’s as they scramble to reopen in less than a week if they can. The governor just made the announcement on Saturday.
One exhibition executive said a MERV-13 requirement for air filtration is stricter than CinemaSafe rules but it wasn’t immediately clear if or how problematic that would be for theaters. Air filtration systems have been a key area of concern for the Cuomo administration.
The guidelines do not apply to drive-in movie theaters, live performances or performing arts venues, the state said in the document called “Reopening New York: Movie Theater Guidelines for Employers and Employees.”
See the full document below.
The movement is welcome and a real boon, but New York City still is a big hole. With NYC and Los Angeles both dark, Hollywood studios have been postponing major releases, driving the international exhibition business even where it’s open further and further into the red.
Counties that aren’t cleared to open are experiencing clusters of COVID infections had the state worried — ditto for areas of Brooklyn and Queens in NYC. The state two weeks ago shut down school an nonessential businesses and heightened enforcement on masks, social distancing and mass gatherings in these so-called Red Zones At a briefing earlier today, Cuomo sounded said there’s been progress and infection rate has been falling. He indicated he might announce some relaxation of the restrictions on Wednesday.
Exhibitors are hoping that either way theaters in Manhattan, which is cluster free, might be able to open soon.
Mandatory rules include limiting capacity to 25% of occupancy not to exceed a per-screen maximum of 50 people. Patrons must wear masks and observe physical distancing of 6 feet unless they’re in the same party. Plastic barriers are required when distancing is not an option – for ticketing, concession, cash registers and ticket-taking. There must be at least two unoccupied seats – or six feet – between patrons in the same row.
Touchless payment or pay-ahead must be an available option. Arrows and indications for bi-directional foot traffic are mandatory. There’s no food or drink self-service. Showtimes must be staggered to allow time for disinfecting and to avoid gathering outside.
Air filtration takes up a lot space in the regulations. They require central HVAC system filtration “meeting the highest rated filtration compatible with the currently installed filter rack and air handling systems” — at a minimum MERV-13, or, if that’s not possible, a state-certified expert has to affirm that filtration meets state standards.
The seven-page document includes mandatory requirements and a list of recommended best practices. Read the rules below (click to enlarge):
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