Movie theater owners, frustrated by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to keep cinemas closed, are pleading with him to reopen venues in the state. The executive committee of the Global Cinema Federation, a worldwide organization of major cinema operators, wrote an open letter urging Cuomo to soften his stance and consider allowing parts of the state to reopen multiplexes.
“We recognize your commitment to ensuring that the citizens of New York remain safe and protected from COVID-19. With certain zip codes in New York seeing spikes of the virus, we are, of course, not suggesting that you open the entire state at once. We are, however, requesting that you adopt a plan similar to that in California, where Governor Newsom has allowed openings on a county-by-county basis according to virus data,” reads the letter, signed by leaders from AMC, Cinemark, Cineplex and Cineworld, among the largest theater chains in the world.
The decision to keep theaters in New York closed, the group argues, have implications that reverberate well beyond the Empire State. New York is one of the biggest moviegoing markets in the country. Without theaters in the area open, Hollywood studios have been reluctant to release new movies. And without fresh product to entice audiences, cinemas across the globe have been forced to close their doors again. In the meantime, high-profile films like Pixar’s “Soul,” the Bond sequel “No Time to Die,” and Marvel’s “Black Widow” continue to vacate the 2020 release schedule.
“The state of New York is an important market for the exhibition industry, not only in the United States but also around the world,” the letter said. “With New York’s theaters shuttered for nearly seven months and no indication of when they will be allowed to reopen, the studios that supply new movies have been reluctant to release their latest films to the point where almost no new major films will be released globally until 2021 and beyond. Without new movies to play in our cinemas, many members of the global exhibition community will be forced to close their doors again. Many of these companies will not survive.”
Part of the frustration among exhibitors is the lack of clarity surrounding reopening plans. In late August, Cuomo suggested movie theaters would be among the next wave of businesses to reopen. As of mid-October, there’s still no indication that’s possible any time soon. Cuomo, earlier in October, doubled down on his stance that he won’t rush to reopen movie theaters in the middle of a pandemic.
“We’re moving heaven and Earth trying to stop a second wave and people need to acknowledge that we’re still in a pandemic and start to act like it,” Richard Azzopardi, senior advisor to Gov. Cuomo, said on Oct. 5. “We understand some people are unhappy, but you know what? Better unhappy than sick or worse.”
Pointing to a study conducted by the National Association of Theater Owners, the exhibition industry’s main lobbying arm, Global Cinema Federation argued that movie theaters have been vetted and approved by leading epidemiologists for minimizing the risk of transmission, so long as patrons wear masks. Theater owners have taken additional steps to ensure customers feel safe, like reducing seating capacity and increasing cleaning protocols. With those measures in place, exhibitors contend that going to the movies is no different than indoor dining or attending religious services. Moreover, the letter states that as of Wednesday, there are no reported cases associated with cinemas that have turned their lights back again.
The movie theater business employs hundreds of thousands of people across the globe. Many were furloughed or laid off amid the coronavirus crisis. More will remain permanently out of work unless the situation improves.
“It is genuinely no exaggeration to say that the continued closure of cinemas in your state has put their future in jeopardy, and we ask that exhibitors in New York be given the opportunity to operate again,” GCF said. “We welcome the opportunity to meet with you and work together on a plan to reopen New York’s cinemas.”