New York’s Indie Theaters to Gov. Cuomo: Not So Fast!

Pop Culture

On Monday Governor Cuomo made a surprise announcement that movie theaters in America’s biggest market, New York City, could reopen on March 5. They would be restricted to 25 percent capacity, with no more than 50 people per screen, and audience members would be asked to wear masks and maintain social distancing. Further guidelines of air filtration and purification standards would also be required.

While major chains like AMC and Regal will likely be able to open their doors, some independent theaters of New York City, e.g. all the cool places, aren’t quite as able, or willing, to snap to it.

As reported by the New York Post, Governor Cuomo’s guidelines may not make economic sense for all without any kind of state aid. As Harvey Elgart, owner of small theaters in Brooklyn and Queens that cater to non-superhero flicks explained to the paper, the 25 percent limit won’t cover his costs. “The utility bills, the electric, the heat. It’s a major cash-flow problem to open with so few people to come. I can actually do better by staying closed than open,” he said. He added that he felt “totally abandoned” by the Governor after he allowed other theaters in the state to reopen much earlier.

Nick Nicolaou, owner of the NYU-adjacent Cinema Village, said he found out about the March 5 reopen “like everyone else on the news.” He hopes to get the projectors moving by April 1, but worries about the expenses of retraining staff and an abandoned lobby with burst pipes while keeping to a 25 percent audience cap.

But the Angelika Film Center, arguably the epicenter of first-run indie cinema in New York City, will meet the March 5 date. Their social media announcement added that the Village East on 2nd Ave and Cinema 123 on the Upper East Side have now joined the small Angelika chain for a post-pandemic life.

The IFC Center is also ready to go for March 5.

Lower Manhattan’s not-for-profit Film Forum, which has been eager to reopen for since late summer, announced via social media that they’ll be back in business on April 2.

The luxe arthouse Metrograph, however, is, for now, sticking with their virtual cinema program.

Other essential NYC spots like Film at Lincoln Center and MoMA Film, which work in association with larger arts facilities, as well as Anthology Film Archives, have yet to get specific about reopening dates. The Museum of the Moving Image did, however, announce the spring slate for their Queens Drive-In, a successful collaboration with Rooftop Films that was pretty much the only good cultural development in New York City last year.

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