New York cinemas are reopening, improving the prospects for theaters

After nearly a year of cobwebs growing, New York City theaters will reopen on Friday, returning movie titles to Manhattan tents that have had messages like “Wear a mask” and “We’ll be back soon” for the past 12 months instead his “read.

Just after noon at the Angelika Film Center on Houston Street, Holly Stillman was already feeling emotional by the time she emerged from the first New York show of Lee Isaac Chung’s delicate family drama “Minari”. “My mask is soaked,” she said.

But she was just as overwhelmed when she was back in a movie theater. Although Stillman feared the Covid-19 protocols would make the experience too restrictive, she found it euphoric instead.

“It was just you and the screen,” Stillman said. “It was wonderful to smell the popcorn as soon as I got into the theater – even though I don’t eat popcorn.”

Less than half of the cinemas nationwide are open, but reopenings are accelerating. Theaters in many other areas reopened last summer around the release of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, but that comeback attempt failed. The theaters in the five districts remained closed throughout the period. For almost a year, one of the world’s leading film capitals stayed dark.

For a theater business punished by the pandemic, resuming cinema in New York is a crucial first step in revitalizing it.

“It’s a symbolic moment,” said Michael Barker, co-president of New York-based Sony Pictures Classics, which released Oscar nominees “The Father” and “The Truffle Hunters” in Manhattan theaters on Friday. “It is said that there is hope for the theater world to reactivate itself.”

For some moviegoers, who consider the big screen to be the only way to see a movie, the long day ahead had almost religious significance.

“Going to the cinema is like going to church for me,” said JM Vargas, who had tickets for “Minari”, “The Last Dragon” and “Chaos Walking” on Friday. “I’ve waited a year to go back to church.”

The cinemas in the city are currently only 25% full, with a maximum of 50 per auditorium. As in other places, the wearing of masks is mandatory, the seats are blocked and the air filters have been improved.

Many theaters were surprised when Governor Andrew Cuomo said the cinemas could reopen under these conditions. Some of the city’s best-known theaters, including the Filmforum, Alamo Drafthouse, Metrograph, and Regal Cinemas, are scheduled to open in the coming weeks. Some took more time to prepare. After sitting dormant all winter, the Cinema Village in Manhattan burst a pipe two weeks earlier and flooded the lobby – one last bit of bad luck in a busy year.

“This was the worst horror film. I don’t think a Hollywood director could have come up with it, ”said Nicolas Nicolaou, owner of the Cinema Village and theaters in Queens and New York. “We didn’t realize that we would be 100% off for that long.”

New York is one of the top film markets alongside Los Angeles (where the theaters are still closed). For smaller films, it’s a major word of mouth epicenter. This is a lucrative necessity for blockbusters. Without New York or Los Angeles, Hollywood studios have pushed most of their larger productions forward until more theaters are open, or they have directed movies to streaming services.

“The New York opening is very important to the theater business in New York, the nation and around the world,” said John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theater Owners. “In the cinema business, we make a living from films that are shown across the country and around the world. We keep seeing these films leave theatrical releases to switch to later dates because there just aren’t enough markets. New York is the most important of these markets. “

Recently, with President Biden’s prediction that any adult could be vaccinated by the end of May, the prospects for theater have brightened for the first time in a long time. Last weekend, Tom & Jerry topped the box office with $ 14.1 million ticket sales, despite being streamed on HBO Max. Although Universal Pictures pushed the sequel “F9” of “Fast & Furious” from late May to late June, other films have climbed the calendar, reversing the tide shift.

Sony Pictures announced that “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway” will be released in May. Paramount Pictures’ “A Quiet Place II” has been moved to the “F9” approved date of May 28th. The “Black Widow” of the Walt Disney Co. is currently planned for May 7th. Add to this the optimism: The theaters in Southern California are expected to reopen in the next few weeks.

“It’s not like we’re going to be record breaking this summer,” said Fithian. “We’ll crawl, then we’ll run, and then we’ll run. It will take until 2022 for sustainable profitability to come back up and running. “

But on Friday at least, New York’s movie lobbies were busy again, if not overcrowded. Sold out signs for the evening adorned the cash register window. Even a small star force returned. Liam Neeson was scheduled to stop by the AMC in Lincoln Square to introduce The Marksman.

Masked moviegoers flocked to films for information at the IFC Center in Greenwich Village – even when the films were streamed. IFC is holding a four-week “What’d We Miss?” Series of films the theater hasn’t been able to play in the past 12 months, including “First Cow” and “MLK / FBI”.

“We’re used to being there at the birth of these films for the New York audience when they go public,” said John Vanco, senior vice president of the IFC Center. The circumstances, he admitted, were not ideal. But they were better than nothing. “I don’t see 25% as not good enough,” said Vanco. “I see it as better than 0%.”

At IFC, Tykon Herman chose Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and had tickets to a 5pm edition of The Trial of the Chicago 7.

“I’m one of the few who don’t have Netflix,” Herman said with a laugh. “I’m just old fashioned. I’ve loved the theater experience since watching ‘ET’. It won’t be the same, but when I sit in front of this screen I feel like things will soon be back to normal. “

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This story was published by a wire agency feed with no changes to the text.

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