Movie theaters are just one business struggling to stay afloat in New York, having been shuttered since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic. But now that other, similar businesses have been allowed to reopen, many theater owners are asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo: When’s our turn?
Bowling alleys in the state reopened Monday, museums will be able to welcome visitors again starting next week, and on Friday Cuomo gave the green light for gyms to return on September 2. But five months after New York first went “on pause,” the future of movie theaters is still uncertain.
Nicolas Nicolaou owns Cinema Village, the longtime theater known for its offbeat selection of films it shows. He believes that even something as simple as going out to the movies is an irreplaceable "part of New York." Nicolaou has spent nearly five decades restoring neighborhood cinemas across New York, including three in the city that have helped rejuvenate neighborhoods. One of his theaters is considered the oldest in New York City.
"It gave me great satisfaction, purpose. Movie theaters are my life," Nicolaou said. He agreed that theaters needed to be closed down at the height of the pandemic, but now believes that the policy "should be reconsidered" – and he's far from alone in that belief.
Shayla Silva runs upscale movie theater Cinepolis in Chelsea, and has a message for the governor: give them a chance to prove they're ready.
"I would say be confident in us. We’re confident we've enhanced our safety protocols," Silva said.
Silva shows just some of the new ways theaters have found to keep guests safe, all in hopes of reopening in the near future. Sanitizing stations, virtual tickets, separated seats to promote social distancing – all measures they’ve adopted in hopes of being allowed to welcome moviegoers back soon.
Neighboring states like Connecticut are slowly reopening theaters, and the largest theater chain in the nation, AMC, started showtimes on Thursday. Theater owners in New York believe they are just as ready as theaters in other states, or other businesses in their own state, but that hasn’t changed Cuomo’s mind just yet.
Earlier this week, Cuomo dashed hopes for now, saying in part “this is a risky situation. And on the index of how essential, movie theaters are not that high.” The governor also said it’s the ventilation system in movie theaters that is the biggest cause of concern, with people sitting there for hours at a time getting recirculated air.
Needless to say, local theater owners disagree.
"It's basically you come in, sit down, watch a movie and walk out. So if you listen to the basic things Dr. Fauci says, you’re safe," Nicolaou said.