Capacity restrictions on New York City movie theaters – now at 33% — will be lifted on May 19 but six-foot social distancing rules won’t — a somewhat confusing edict set out earlier Monday by Governor Andrew Cuomo. Break out the measuring sticks.
Cuomo rarely mentions movie theaters and didn’t specifically today but it seems they were lumped in with other indoor venues where capacity limits will be abolished on that date. The governor was most explicit about Broadway, which, however, as Deadline reported, won’t be staging productions until the fall.
Theater owners are working to figure out how to maximize capacity while maintaining a Covid- compliant six-foot distance – in both New York and New Jersey, which made the announcement jointly. It’s confusing because each room is a different size.
One clear but limited benefit is that there won’t be a cap on capacity anymore. Under the current rule, theaters can’t allow more than 100 people in regardless of total capacity. Eliminating the cap would only help the largest locations and possibly theaters with luxury seating where patrons are already farther apart.
The Governor also said that the social distancing requirement in general could be removed if people are vaccinated, but it’s not clear how this applies to movie theaters, said Joe Masher, CEO of Bowtie Cinemas and president of New York NATO.
New York City theaters reopened March 6 after a year dark with many of them barely hanging on and at a meager 25% capacity.
They were bumped up to 33% a week ago, on April 26. NY NATO said it’s been calling on Cuomo to raise the limit to 50% by Memorial Day and 75% by July 4 for rollouts of major tentpoles like Cruella, A Quiet Place 2, F9 and Black Widow.
New York’s American Federation of Musicians Local 802 released a statement today about Cuomo’s move:
The musicians of NYC welcome the recent announcement by Governor Cuomo that New York will end most capacity restrictions on May 19, including on Broadway. We’re feeling hopeful and optimistic that the re-opening of NYC is within sight. Already, the New York Philharmonic and many other ensembles have been performing for New Yorkers. Now, with the ending of most capacity restrictions in NYC, even more safe outdoor — and indoor — performances will be possible. This couldn’t have been possible without the tremendous sacrifices that all of us have made for more than a year as well as the inspiring work of scientists around the world who created a safe vaccination program. We’re optimistic that audiences will soon get to enjoy the sound of live music again in all of their favorite venues, and we’re optimistic that our musicians — and our entire industry — will get back to work soon.
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