New York witnessed the long-awaited reopening of its movie theatres after almost one year of closure due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on Friday. Theatres are now allowed to open at a capacity of 25%, which even though nowhere near the full capacity is still a good start for a severely pandemic hit cinema industry. Masks, social distancing, and other safety protocols must be in place and the city will follow the same guideline in reopening movie theatres.
Moviegoers showed confidence in the theatre safety and health protocols and reconnected with their favorite form of entertainment as soon as the theatres opened. Film star Liam Neeson even showed up at 7 PM showing “The Marksman” at AMC theatres in Lincoln Square to welcome movie-goers coming back to the theatre.
Joe Masher, president of National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), New York said “Theaters are doing very well in the city, generally speaking, and Hollywood is going to be pleased on Monday. It’s a start. We have to start somewhere.”
“The New York opening is very significant to the theatre business in New York, in the nation and the globe, We in the movie theatre business live off of movies that play all around the country and all around the world. We keep seeing those movies leave the theatrical release schedule to move to later dates because there just haven't been enough markets. New York is the most important of those markets.” - John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO).
At 25% capacity, the limit set by Governor Andrew Cuomo, the sold-out shows doesn’t mean what they used to be. Currently, the theatres are limited to one out of every four available seats and no more than fifty people. That’s a lot of X’s on the seating chart. This arrangement is reflected on the online and booking apps where whenever you reserve a seat at an AMC, the system will automatically block ou the seats on either side.
President Joe Biden's recent announcement that every adult in the United States will be vaccinated by May has given much-needed hope to the struggling movie theatres. Last Weekend, “Tom & Jerry” overperformed at the box office with $14.1 million in ticket sales even though the movie is available to stream on HBO Max. There are several big movie releases slated to release in May and June already. Vin Diesel’s Fast and Furious 9 (F9) has been pushed from late May to June. Sony Pictures also said that they will release “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway” in May. John Krasinski's directorial venture “A Quiet Place II” moved into May 28 slot vacated by F9. The Walt Disney Co.’s “Black Widow” is currently slated to release on May 7 and based on the current direction of the pandemic, the date seems very promising.
"It's not that we're going back to record-breaking business this summer. We're going to crawl, then we're going to walk, and then we're going to run. It's going to take into 2022 before sustained profitability comes back into the business.," said NATO CEO, John Fithian.
The industry was hugely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Box office sales plummeted by more than 70% globally last year and almost 80% in the US and Canada, the world’s biggest market.
Although many places in the US are slowly opening its door to the public, people are still reluctant due to health concerns. But with promising downward trends in the number of coronavirus cases and the vaccination plans gaining momentum across the country, things seem to be getting slowly but surely back to normal. China's record-breaking box office sales over the Chinese New Year month demonstrate that people cannot wait to get off their couches. It will be interesting to see if people being heavily reliant on streaming services over the last year will have any long-lasting impact on theater sales.