After almost an entire year of being shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, theaters in New York City are soon to be opened back up for the public again.
In a press event on Monday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that on March 5th theaters will be permitted to reopen at 25% capacity (or no more than 50 people in one auditorium). This is a huge boon for the theater industry, which has taken an unprecedented hit over the last year. While theaters across the country have tried to remain open, with COVID restrictions in place, those in New York and Los Angeles, the two most dominant markets, have been closed since the beginning of lockdown.
In 2019, New York contributed 7.4% of the total box office revenue for the year, beaten out only by L.A., which had 9%.
The National Association of Theatre Owners released a statement in response to the news, saying, “Theater owners are pleased with the announcement that New York City movie theaters will be allowed to safely re-open. Stringent voluntary health and safety protocols have made it possible for cinemas across the country to operate safely and responsibly at higher capacity limits for many months without a single outbreak of COVID-19 being traced to movie theaters. New York City is a major market for moviegoing in the U.S.; re-opening there gives confidence to film distributors in setting and holding their theatrical release dates, and is an important step in the recovery of the entire industry. We look forward to expanding the capacity from 25 percent to 50 percent in the very near future so that theaters can operate profitably.”
Time will soon tell what kind of an impact this will have on the industry at large. At the moment, approximately 38% of theaters in North America are open to the public, and studios have been too afraid to release the majority of their biggest properties, preferring to hold them until they are able to get more people in the seats to see them. Without the newest tentpole movies to put on display, the major theater chains like AMC and Regal have one by one shut their doors as well.
Will the opening of New York City prompt some of these shuttered theaters to open their doors elsewhere? Will people show up?
The first major movie that will test the waters will be Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon, which is set to release on March 5th. The film will also be available on Disney+ the same day, for the premium access price of $30.
Available the week before is Warner Bros.’ Tom & Jerry, which will also be available to stream on HBO Max the same day, for 30 days.
Studios and theater owners are going to have a very close eye on the profits both of these family films bring in when they’re available on the big screen for the public on March 5th.