Movie Theaters in New York City, Los Angeles Ordered to Close Due to Coronavirus Concerns

Movie theater concession stand
Mary Altaffer/AP/Shutterstock

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti have ordered movie theaters in their respective cities to close in response to the coronavirus pandemic. It’s the first time in modern history that cinemas have shuttered en masse not due to weather concerns.

New York City also took dramatic steps on Sunday to curb the spread of the virus by closing restaurants, nightclubs, small theater houses and concert venues starting Tuesday at 9 a.m. Public schools will also be closed at least through April 20, affecting nearly one millions students. Restaurants are limited to only take-out and delivery orders as of March 17.

Los Angeles bars, nightclubs, gyms and entertainment venues will also be closed until March 31, unless extended. Garcetti said grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open. On Monday, the order was extended to all of Los Angeles County.

“This is not a decision I make lightly,” de Blasio wrote Sunday night on Twitter. “These places are part of the heart and soul of our city. They are part of what it means to be a New Yorker. But our city is facing an unprecedented threat, and we must respond with a wartime mentality.”

He added, “We will come through this, but until we do, we must make whatever sacrifices necessary to help our fellow New Yorkers.”

On Sunday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that public events involving more than 50 people be called off for the next eight weeks.

In compliance with updated CDC guidelines, AMC Theatres, the world’s largest chain, announced Monday that venues remaining open will cap capacity at 50 people or sell 50% of tickets, whichever is less.

“With this action, AMC continues its commitment to adhere to recommendations of the CDC on social distancing, which is an extremely important concept in these unprecedented times,” AMC CEO and president Adam Aron said in a statement.

De Blaiso and Garcetti announced the measures in an effort to slow the spread of the virus in two of the nation’s largest cities. Federal officials have been advocating for aggressive social distancing measures across the country in a bid to “flatten the curve” of infection so that hospitals are not overwhelmed with patients all at once.

The closure of so many dining establishments is a huge blow to the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of food service and hospitality workers who survive on hourly paychecks. The closure of multiplexes will add more damage to the global box office, which has been walloped by the public’s sudden fear of gathering with crowds in tight spaces like theaters.

De Blasio had been under pressure by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to close the city’s schools, which is the nation’s largest public system. The mayor said the decision was difficult given the consideration of the “full cost” of the hardship imposed on many parents. The city will still make grab-and-go breakfast and lunch available through schools for students who rely on those meals for nutrition, de Blasio said.

Moviegoing in North America plummeted to a 22-year low this weekend as audiences opted to stay home rather than watch Pixar’s “Onward,” Universal’s “The Hunt” or Sony’s “Bloodshot” in a darkened room with strangers. Revenues also took a hit because most theater chains across the country limited the amount of tickets sold per auditorium to avoid crowding.

In light of concerns over coronavirus, theaters had been keeping distances between rows and seats and taking extra sanitation measures, including sterilizing chairs, arm rests and cup holders more frequently and disinfecting all hand-contact surfaces during peak times.

Though movie theaters in some regions of the country remain open, multiplexes were among the last public gathering spaces to close their doors amid the public health crisis. Prior to closures, Hollywood studios had pulled high-profile tentpoles — including Disney’s “Mulan,” Paramount’s “A Quiet Place Part II,” Universal’s “Fast 9” and MGM’s “No Time to Die” — from their release calendars.

By Sunday, most entertainment institutions such as Broadway, theme parks, and sporting venues have been closed to guard against the outbreak.