Is NYC Ready for the Return of Movie Theaters?

Gov. Cuomo will allow local theaters to reopen on March 5.

Do you remember the last time you went to a movie theater? What did you see? The Photograph? The Call of the Wild? For me, it was Downhill, and I have regretted ending on that note every day for the past 12 months.

Even in a city where live entertainment prevails, New Yorkers love a good cinema moment, whether it’s having an intimate dinner outing at Nitehawk or getting the full IMAX experience at AMC Lincoln Square. Now, after nearly a year of relying on at-home theatrical releases, Governor Andrew Cuomo decided that NYC movie theaters can join the rest of the state and open their revolving doors once again.

Starting Saturday, March 5, local cineplexes can fill their theater rooms to 25% capacity.

MORE: Indoor Dining in NYC Will Increase to 35% Capacity Starting on February 26

Cuomo's decision to partially reopen movie theaters in the Big Apple is a big win for the film industry. Some movies that were set to release last spring still haven't come out because they are banking on hitting big in the box office. And in order to hit big in the box office, leading markets need to be in business.

The National Association of Theater Owners, which has been urging Cuomo to loosen restrictions for quite some time now, was quick to comment about the decision that was announced during a Monday news conference.

"New York City is a major market for moviegoing in the U.S.," NATO said in a statement. "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% to 50% in the very near future so that theatres can operate profitably."

Still, the public is divided about whether or not it's safe and worth it to spend an extended period of time in a poorly ventilated room, with many people on social media vowing not to risk infection at a movie theater until they're fully vaccinated.

Cuomo hopes that setting strict guidelines for cinemas and moviegoers will prevent COVID-19 cases from rising as a result of the decision. Not only will movie theaters have to max out their seating at 25% capacity, but they can't allow more than 50 people to be seated in a single theater, everyone visiting must wear masks, and theater rooms must have air filtration systems that provide for better ventilation.

Movie theaters aren't the only thing set to return to NYC in the coming months. Indoor dining has now resumed, and reopening dates for family entertainment centers and amusement parks have been set for early spring.

Cinema owners have long touted that zero COVID-19 infections have been traced back to movie theaters, and they'll need that stat to remain true if they want government officials and members of the public to buy into expanding seating capacity as time goes on.

So, is New York City ready for the return of movie theaters? I guess we'll find out soon.

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Kyler Alvord is a news writer at Thrillist. Find him on Twitter and Instagram. Or don't. It's really up to you.