The silver screen returns to New York upon eased restrictions

Phtoto courtesy of Roey Ahram, Flickr

Cinema fans in the city that never sleeps can return to movie theaters on March 5, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced recently. Movie theaters began to close in New York last March when rates of COVID-19 began to pick up deadly speed in the United States. The reopening in March means that for nearly an entire year, movie theaters have been closed in the state. The theaters will not be operating at full capacity, however, with the reopening policy allowing for 25% capacity at this time. 

The push to reopen theaters is the latest phase of Cuomo’s plan to repair and rejuvenate New York’s economy that was shredded by the pandemic. The next step in this plan is to reopen entertainment centers in a limited capacity. Indoor entertainment centers can reopen on March 25, including the likes of laser tag arenas, arcades and trampoline parks. Outdoor entertainment centers can reopen beginning April 9, allowing theme parks and other similar locations to welcome back patrons. 

Movie theaters have been slowly welcoming back patrons in the past few weeks around New York state, New Jersey and other states due to the progress to slow the spread of the coronavirus. This move was met with relief from Americans as it represented progress in the slow return toward normalcy.

The movie theater experience is a celebrated one in the United States. America is lauded for being the entertainment capital of the world, producing large quantities of famous television shows and films. This has kept movie theaters in business for decades, but this secure place in the American economy is in danger from a growing number of streaming services that only grew during the COVID-19 pandemic as theaters were forcibly sidelined. 

Movie theater premieres of films during the pandemic have faced uncertainty about when and if the film will be released. Delays in release dates have become commonplace as the pandemic changed directions. Warner Bros. reacted to this in a startling and precedent-setting way; by releasing their entire 2021 release slate to the streaming service HBO Max as well as the theaters. This unique business model calls for all of Warner Bros.’s 17 movie releases for 2021 to premiere in theaters and on HBO Max on the release date, before spending one month on HBO Max and then being exclusively in theaters until the film moves to streaming services once again at a natural pace. 

This plan allows for people who are eager to return to theaters to be able to see fresh movies, while still not denying people who want to steer clear of crowds the chance to see the latest film releases. It seems perfect in an idealistic sense, but it may be a death sentence for movie theaters, which are in need of all the business they can get. Movie theaters are a central social and artistic zone for many people, and it would be devastating if this spelled the beginning of the end for cinemas. However, there is still hope for theaters once the pandemic lifts.

For many, fears about the pandemic are causing people to rely more on streaming than they ever have before. With the vaccine rollout at an all time high, the country is on track to gain control over this devastating virus. Once we are able to return to our normal activities, many people will likely spend more time doing activities they were unable to do for a long time, like going to the movies. I know that I will eagerly return as soon as I am able.