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.