New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has given movie theaters in New York City permission to reopen at limited capacity starting on March 5.

During his daily press briefing, the Empire State leader said cinemas will be permitted to operate at 25% capacity, with no more than 50 people. Moreover, other safety measures such as masks, social distancing and heightened sanitizing measures will be required. Last October, venues outside of New York City were allowed to reopen with the same restrictions.

Despite any limitations, the news is welcome for movie theater owners whose locations have been empty for nearly a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. New York-based film exhibitors had been publicly sparring with Cuomo in recent months about the Governor’s reluctance to let cinemas reopen. They felt it was unfair that restaurants, sporting arenas and other public-facing institutions had approval to welcome patrons again, yet movie theaters were left in the dark.

“We’re still in a pandemic,” Cuomo said in October of 2020 and often repeated, brushing off any criticisms about his reopening model.

However, cases of coronavirus have reached below 3% for the first time since November. That statistic, combined with the ongoing vaccine rollout, has given state officials confidence to let cash registers in theaters ring again.

Does that mean anyone will show up? It’s too soon to tell. Similarly, it’s unclear whether or not it will alter studio’s plans to release their biggest blockbusters. Most big-budgeted movies, including James Bond sequel “No Time to Die” and “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” had already been pushed into later in the year. There’s also been speculation about Marvel’s superhero adventure “Black Widow” (scheduled for May 7) and “Fast & Furious” entry “F9” (set for May 28). Even with theaters in Manhattan and surrounding boroughs open, it will be difficult to turn a profit on $200 million-budgeted films with capped capacity and Los Angeles venues shuttered.

More to come…

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