Whenever we talk about the way that movie theaters and the film industry will begin to bounce back after the pandemic shut everything down nearly a year ago, one of the first steps is to reopen theaters around the US. Well, in most states, that has already begun, but studios are still hesitant to release blockbusters because of two major regions that have remained closed for most of the last year — New York City and Los Angeles, which make up a huge piece of the US box office pie. It appears that NYC is finally on the path to reopening theaters, paving the way for studios to perhaps have more confidence to release blockbusters this summer. But this news arrives just as Hollywood studios plead with President Biden for more assistance.
According to THR, New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, announced that NYC movie theaters will be allowed to reopen on March 5, but they’ll have to follow very strict social distancing and capacity limits. Long story short, these theaters will only be able to fill up to 25% capacity for now.
“Theater owners are pleased with the announcement that New York City movie theaters will be allowed to safely reopen. 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,” the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) said in a statement. “New York City is a major market for moviegoing in the U.S.; reopening 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.”
Of course, just opening the doors doesn’t mean people will be rushing into theaters. As we’ve seen, there are two important pieces to this theatrical puzzle. First is the opening of theaters around the country. Next, and just as crucial, is the confidence of studios to actually put content on the big screen to attract people to go out to see a film. And when you have “The Croods 2” limping to a #1 showing last weekend after being in theaters for 13 weeks and already available on Blu-ray, you know things aren’t looking good.
Speaking of not looking good, as mentioned above, the NYC news came as Hollywood studios and various Guilds wrote a letter to President Biden asking for further assistance from the government due to the slow recovery from the COVID pandemic. The letter claims that 465,000 jobs are at stake since studios have yet to be able to go back to full production schedules and the industry, as a whole suffers. The letter was signed by the Motion Picture Association, the DGA, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE, IFTA, and the AFL-CIO (DPE).
“First and foremost, we support efforts to help America overcome the challenges of COVID-19. For much of 2020 through to the present, significant portions of the industry shuttered. The pandemic has put roughly 465,000 film and television jobs in the U.S. at risk,” the letter said. “Production will not return to normal levels until the country gets on top of the COVID crisis. We stand ready to partner with you and the Congress on a comprehensive policy agenda to ensure the entertainment industry recovers and delivers more of the vibrant movie, television, and streaming content that audiences around the world love.”
Clearly, the NYC theater announcement and the open letter to President Biden show that recovery is happening, but slowly. Perhaps, it’s too slow. So, it continues to be a topic that people should follow, as the film/TV industry and the exhibition industry continue to try to survive this pandemic.