New Jersey will allow its indoor movie theaters to open on Sept. 4, the start of the Labor Day holiday weekend.
Governor Phil Murphy announced Monday that theaters — which have been closed for almost six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic — and indoor performance venues would be allowed to reopen with attendance per theater capped at either 25% of capacity or an audience of 150.
Murphy made the announcement during a regular COVID-19 briefing, during which the state announced that it is also allowing the return of indoor dining. He also said groups buying tickets together at theaters may also sit together but all others must remain at least six feet apart and everyone must wear masks in theaters. Murphy credited the easing of the rules with the “hard work” that the state’s residents have undertaken to lower the positivity and transmission rates of the virus.
During the past weekend, about 62% of domestic locations were open, while California, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Michigan, Maryland, New Mexico and parts of Arizona were still shuttered more than five months after closing down due to the pandemic.
Business was mild over the weekend with “The New Mutants” taking in $7 million at 2,412 North American locations. Warner Bros. is launching Christopher Nolan’s much-anticipated time-travel mystery “Tenet” on Sept. 3.
The announcement came two weeks after a judge upheld an order closing movie theaters in New Jersey, finding that the state is not infringing on theaters’ First Amendment rights in its pandemic response. Judge Brian Martinotti denied a motion for an injunction, which had been sought by the National Association of Theatre Owners, the exhibition industry’s main lobbying group, and six cinema chains. The theaters had argued that the state was discriminating against them by allowing churches to remain open while theaters were ordered to close.
But in his 33-page opinion, Martinotti found that the order was content-neutral, and that the state had shown it was a reasonable response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced strict guidelines on Aug. 28 for indoor movie theaters in California to reopen in the coming months, contained in a new color-coded reopening system for counties based on coronavirus prevalence and testing rates. Currently, 38 of the 58 counties (including Los Angeles and Orange), with 87% of the state’s population, are in the “purple” tier or “widespread” tier.
San Francisco and San Diego counties currently meet the requirements to be in the lower “red” tier, so movie theaters in those counties are allowed reopen on Aug. 31 at just 25% capacity or an audience of 150.