Film At Lincoln Center Sets Reopening Date, Ending “400 Days Of Darkened Screens And Empty Seats”

Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center

Film at Lincoln Center, a foundational part of the New York City and global art film landscape, will reopen its theaters on April 16 after a Covid-19 shutdown of more than a year.

The non-profit did not offer any details beyond the date, promising to elaborate soon on programming plans and safety measures. Along with its year-round lineup, FLC is known for presenting the New York Film Festival, a fall mainstay over the past six decades that had to rely on drive-ins and online screenings in 2020. Dates for the 2021 edition have not been announced. A number of stakeholders are holding out hope that it can return to a more traditional setup, along with Toronto, Telluride and other festivals.

“After 400 days of darkened screens and empty seats, we are excited to fire up our state-of-the-art projectors and reopen our theater doors,” the organization said in its announcement.

The Lincoln Center complex encompasses the commercial Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center as well as the repertory Walter Reade Theater. Given the closure of the nearby Lincoln Plaza and Landmark 57 specialty complexes in recent years, FLC’s importance as a launch pad for art and specialty releases has been on the rise.

The reopening will follow that of specialty venues like the IFC Center and the Netflix-operated Paris Theatre. The Film Forum has slated its return for April 2, while the Metrograph on the Lower East Side has stayed on the sidelines thus far.

Top exhibitor AMC was cleared to reopen in New York on March 7, and Regal Cinemas parent CineWorld just announced a plan to light back up in the city. New York’s vaccination rate is approaching 13% statewide, but is higher in the city. Mayor Bill De Blasio projects that 5 million New Yorkers will be vaccinated by June.

The Lincoln Center campus will host a series of performances and events, including a handful of screenings put on by FLC, in a spring initiative called Restart Stages. It starts on April 7.

Financially, the year-plus closure of theaters has been grueling for New York’s arthouse and specialty destinations. As much of a question mark as moviegoing in general will be as the pandemic eases, the already-delicate specialty ecosystem faces particular challenges due to distribution shifts, rising operating costs and other factors. That holds especially true for non-profits.

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