The risk of patrons gathering as they come in and out of shows is one reason why New York State is reluctant to open movie theaters, or even publish guidelines ticking off measures that would lead to a reopening as it’s done with other industries, according to a state official.
Exhibition players have been confused at the holdup and incredulous that bowling allies, casinos, gyms and now indoor dining is allowed across New York while cinemas remain shut, despite stringent protocols they’ve put in place from PPE to social distancing to staggered show times and ventilation that appears to meet state requirements. Current industry woes are not solely New York’s fault of course, but studios are reluctant to launch big films without one of the nation’s biggest movie markets, or at least a timeline of when it may come back.
Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger publicly pointed the finger at New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo as a big reason the Regal cinema parent will now close its locations in the U.S. and UK. Theater stocks got creamed Monday and Wall Street analysts grew even gloomy on the sector as months drag by.
In a press briefing today, Cuomo focused on new COVID hot spots in Brooklyn, where just-opened schools are being closed tomorrow, and other areas of the state.
In response to a query about the status of theaters, Richard Azzopardi, senior advisor to Cuomo, said in an emailed statement: “We’re moving heaven and earth trying to stop a second wave and people need to acknowledge that we’re still in a pandemic and start to act like it. We understand some people are unhappy but you know what? Better unhappy than sick or worse.” But that didn’t clarify what the ongoing areas of concern around theaters while other venues have been allowed to open.
It seems that set show times — where a crowd might congregate arriving and leaving at around the same time — are one major factor. People don’t hit up the gym or go bowling or arrive at restaurants at the same time like they might for a movie, the official noted. In that sense, New York state may be lumping movie theaters into a similar category as concerts and live entertainment. That’s a bit disheartening because those events are not likely to restart anytime soon.
Unlike for other industries, including film and TV production, New York state hasn’t even released guidance for exhibition because, the official said, it doesn’t think the pieces aren’t there yet for it operate safely.
There have been conversations and Joe Masher, head of NATO New York and CEO of family owned Bowtie Cinemas, believes the industry had addressed all possible issues with the state. Showtimes are staggered, people don’t all arrive at the same time, many buy tickets online, lobbies and concession stands are socially distanced. Theaters in other states that are open are not selling out even at 50% capacity.
And, he said, theaters have been open for months in other states and around the world without a single case of COVID having been traced back to a cinema.
MGM on Friday announced that the next James Bond movie, No Time to Die, will move from November into next spring. Deadline reported earlier today that Warner Bros’ release of Legendary’s Dune was pushed from this December to October of 2021.
“Every time the governor speaks and doesn’t say anything about theaters another movie falls off the schedule. It’s a darn shame,” Masher said.