And according to New York State governor’s recent reopening phase plan, indoor cinemas are in the same final phase 4 classification as Broadway theaters, entertainment venues, museums and arts and recreation businesses.
Weren’t we all suppose to be back online in late June and early July before the opening of Warner Bros.’ Christopher Nolan movie Tenet on July 17 and now Solstice Studios’ Russell Crowe movie road rage movie Unhinged on July 1?
First, as Deadline clarified today, Broadway isn’t in a shutdown through Labor Day weekend as most media outlets falsely indicated; today’s news outlined a ticket refund policy period through that holiday weekend. The Broadway League will follow reopening guidelines as prescribed by Cuomo’s office. Their statement today didn’t announce or speculate a reopening date.
Still, what does that mean for New York City, a DMA that reps anywhere from 7%-10% of a wide release movie’s opening weekend box office? New York City’s 42nd Street multiplexes, the AMC Empire 25 and the Regal E-Walk 4DX & RPX and AMC’s Lincoln Center are among the top grossing locations in the country. Surely a studio will need them to make bank during an event pic’s opening weekend, even at 25% to 50% reduced auditorium capacities.
We hear that NATO is currently lobbying New York state to get movie theaters changed to phase 3. That would put them in the same reopening category as restaurants and other food-service businesses that have dine-in service. The hope is that a late June or early July reopening with reduced capacities is still on target. Of course, safety for all moviegoers is key.
“The major difference between Broadway theaters and movie theaters are the size of our auditoriums,” says New York State NATO Executive Director Robert Sunshine, “Movie theaters should be in phase 3. There’s no way you can compare movie theaters with big concert halls, sporting arenas or Broadway theatres. Movie theaters should be in the same category as restaurants, and classified as food service establishments.”
Consider the fact that even a small Broadway theater like the Hudson Theatre which recently played David Byrne’s American Utopia seats 954, with larger musical theaters such as the Gershwin counting 1,933 seats, the Lyric Theatre which plays Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at 1,756 and the Minskoff at 1,692. Indeed, Broadway theaters have different configurations than cinemas with incredibly tight seating, live actors and plenty of tourists coming through. Broadway theaters have a high overhead, and must sell as many seats as possible. They can’t afford to operate at a reduced capacity level like cinemas.
“For us, we can stagger theater times, stagger when people arrive and leave. In auditoriums that have recliner seats, social distancing is already in place. Those auditoriums with reclining seats only average about 120 seats,” Sunshine tells Deadline.
Cuomo announced yesterday that drive-in cinemas could reopen as early as this Friday, May 15. This came, according to the WSJ, after some theaters throughout New York state petitioned for an exemption from shutdown orders, saying that consumers can stay safe while in their cars. Even though there’s no new major studio product, such drive-ins like the The Four Brothers Drive-In in Amenia, N.Y., will reopen with older movies such as Universal’s Trolls World Tour and February’s Warner Bros. release Birds of Prey.
Polls, such as EDO’s, have indicated that consumers will be slow to return to the movie theaters as society reopens from COVID-19. Exhibitors are bracing for that, but there’s some positive signs that people are ready to get out, from reports of populated beaches, to even pop-drive in theaters like the Bel Aire Diner in Astoria, Queens selling out, per the NY Post.