New York’s COVID-19 positive infection rate has hovered around 1 percent since July, and although almost everything has started to reopen around the state, movie theaters are still in limbo.
Every state, except New York and North Carolina, have either opened movie theaters or at least announced a plan on when these theaters can reopen.
And this lack of a plan means that some movies that were set to premiere in the fall are now being pushed to next year.
"It’s just baffling why New York isn’t open and why we can’t get any kind of an answer out of the governor’s office about when we can reopen," said Joe Masher, chief operating officer of Bow Tie Cinemas and president of the National Association of Theater Owners of New York State.
"All they would have to say is, 'OK movie theaters can open on October X' and then studios will have some relief, as long as the numbers are still good, and will keep their movies on the calendar. But right now, we’re very, very worried that the Bond movie slated to come out for Thanksgiving is going to get pushed off the calendar."
Nine theaters in New York have already shut their doors and Masher says he is worried this is only the beginning.
Since New York is the number one market, many studios have decided to push back premiere dates or air movies on streaming services.
Masher says the lack of new movies has even caused them to partner and air a Netflix film, before it airs on Netflix.
The governor’s office sent a statement in response that is almost identical to every statement they have sent on this topic before which says, "New York State has been following the data and latest science on the virus to re-open the economy safely and we are doing the same when it comes to movie theaters. Movie theaters remain closed, along with similar activities around the state, as they present the challenge of customers sitting for long periods in an enclosed space with the potential for activities such as eating and drinking that require a mask to be removed. In New York, we will continue to track the data and the science, and we will make a decision on re-opening them here when health experts determine it is safe to do so."
But Masher explained movie theaters across the country have already found ways to open safely and cut down on risks. Patrons will have the option of purchasing tickets and snacks in advance, and movie theater owners have committed to updating their air filtration systems.
"We’re doing our best to make sure that everyone has a completely safe and enjoyable experience because that’s what’s been missing, that communal experience during the shutdown. Sitting in a room together laughing and crying and being scared together, while socially distanced, is still kind of a pretty cool thing and that’s been missing," Masher said.
Connecticut and New Jersey, the two states that are a part of New York’s Tri-state reopening alliance, have allowed movie theaters to reopen.