A trade group claims New York City movie theaters may not survive the pandemic unless Gov. Andrew Cuomo lifts state restrictions on seating capacity.
The National Association of Theater Owners said Tuesday it has been lobbying for New York City cinemas to be allowed to raise their capacity to 50 percent from the current 25 percent by Memorial Day and to 75 percent or more by July 4.
“We are at the Governor’s door every morning with a call or an email trying to get to a minimum of 50 percent right now across the state, given the fact that there are zero cases of COVID from theaters and that people clearly want to go to the movies,” NATO president Joe Masher told Deadline.
In response, Cuomo’s office has merely told NATO it is monitoring the rising COVID infection rate, according to Masher.
“We just can’t make it at 25 percent,” Masher added, noting that some cinemas in the state haven’t reopened under the strict rule. “We have to accommodate the movie-going audience. We can safely do so.”
Masher pointed to ramped-up demand for moviegoing thanks to the “Godzilla vs. Kong” weekend box office stampede that racked up $285 million globally. Masher told Deadline he hopes the governor increases capacity by the time “Mortal Kombat,” the martial-arts fantasy action flick, opens on April 23.
After nearly a year of being closed, New York City’s movie houses were allowed to reopen on March 5 at 25 percent capacity. At the time, state officials mandated enhanced cleaning protocols and social distancing measures such as mask wearing and contactless pay.
Los Angeles, the other major US movie market, had theaters cleared to open March 11 at 25 percent capacity, or 100 people, whichever is fewer. On March 31, LA was given the green light to move ahead to 50 percent capacity, or 200 people.
Masher said that in order for theaters to survive, New York City needs to expand in time for the May 28 openings of “Cruella” starring Emma Stone and “A Quiet Place Part II” with Emily Blunt, as well as July 4 summertime blockbusters, Marvel’s “Black Widow” and “Top Gun: Maverick,” the sequel to the 1986 hit starring Tom Cruise.
Masher argued that the 25 percent cap is nonsensical given the fact that indoor dining at the Big Apple’s restaurants has been at 50 percent capacity since last month.
“It makes no sense,” said Masher, who is also the CEO of Bowtie Cinemas. “We need to be able to survive.”
Officials at Cuomo’s office couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.