Some N.Y. movie theaters can reopen Oct. 23

Joseph Spector
New York State Team

Chemung, Schuyler, & Steuben County theaters excluded; COVID precautions must be followed

New York is allowing movie theaters to open with limited capacity Oct. 23 in areas of the state where COVID-19 rates are low, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday. Theaters will be able to open outside New York City in counties that are below a 2% infection rate on a 14-day average and have no COVID hot spots, which would rule out Rockland and Orange counties, as well as a few counties upstate, including Chemung, Schuyler, and Steuben Counties. As of Monday, Yates County was still on the list of those allowed.

Lake Street Plaza Theatres in Penn Yan

Theaters were closed in mid-March when the pandemic struck the state, and Cuomo had not allowed their reopening. But he said Saturday he would loosen the restrictions, allowing a partial reopening.

The announcement comes after movie theaters have been pressing to reopen in N.Y., where infection rates are among the lowest in the nation. Regal Cinemas, for example, announced this month it will shutter its theaters across the nation, blaming it in part on New York’s shutdown.

Lance McFetridge, owner of Lakes Street Plaza Theaters in Penn Yan, says he is contacting his distributor this week to find available films after Hollywood stopped releasing new films during the pandemic. McFetridge has been able to continue some operation during the shutdown.

“Penn Yan has supported us so well with our drive-through popcorn sales,” he says, “but we’re all looking forward to going back to the movies.”

Theaters will be allowed to reopen at 25% capacity with up to 50 people per screen.

Movie theaters will be able to reopen under the following conditions:

• Masks will be required at all times, except when seated and eating.

• Assigned seats will be required in all theaters.

• Social distancing between parties will be required at all times.

• Additional staffing will be needed to control occupancy, traffic, and seating to ensure compliance.

• Theaters must meet enhanced air filtration, ventilation, and purification standards.

Includes reporting by John Christensen