New York movie theaters have increased their capacity limit to 33% (up from 25%) but NATO New York’s Joe Masher says it’s not enough and that it’s “doing damage to a global industry.” Masher is demanding a capacity increase to 50% by Memorial Day weekend which is a huge timeframe for tentpole releases.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has had his door hammered on for months with demands to increase the capacity limit from 25% and while he did increase the new limit to 33% by April 26, 2021, it’s not being viewed in a positive light because it doesn’t really move the needle much for New York theaters to really survive. Joe Masher, COO of Bowtie Cinemas and head of the National Theater Owners’ New York division, had this to say about what’s needed for theaters to thrive in the state:
“We’re glad that we haven’t been completely ignored and that a step towards progress has been made, but we have made it very clear that theaters need to have the audience limit raised to 50% by Memorial Day weekend to survive financially. What New York is doing to us right now is simply doing damage to a worldwide industry.”
Prior to Cuomo’s announcement, New York was one of the last two states in the country, along with Pennsylvania, to require 25% capacity limits for all of its counties. While some states enforce such a limit on a county-by-county basis — including California, Colorado, and Oregon — major cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco raised their limits to 50% earlier this month and more increases for those major markets aren’t too far behind. New York City, much like Los Angeles, is a major market for box office revenue so the frustration from New York exhibitors is understandable. We didn’t have a summer movie season last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic but this summer, even if it’s not 100% back to normal, can make up for a lot of that loss if theaters are in a position to welcome back moviegoers.
NATO might be particularly baffled by how slow Cuomo is moving on the capacity increases because New York’s rate of Covid-19 infection is now 2.94%, the lowest it has been since last November. Total hospitalizations stand at 3,783 but there also seems to be confusion as to why certain establishments can reopen at larger capacity levels and not movie theaters. For instance, indoor dining has been upped to 50% and the argument is that it’s much easier to enforce distancing at a movie theater thanks to blocking off space and assigned seating. Cuomo has never really made it quite clear why movie theaters in the area are being treated so much differently from other establishments and it seems the lack of transparency is a bone of contention.
Do YOU think New York movie theaters will increase their capacity to 50% by Memorial Day weekend?