New York City movie theatres will reopen on March 5 at limited capacity, Cuomo says

A view outside AMC 34th Street 14 movie theatre during the coronavirus pandemic on May 14, 2020 in New York City. Noam Galai/Getty Images
  • New York City movie theatres will be able to reopen on March 5 at 25% capacity, Gov. Cuomo said Monday.
  • Cuomo also said assigned seating, social distancing, and other health precautions would be in place.
  • New York City movie theatres have been closed for nearly a year.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

After nearly a year of being shut down, New York City movie theatres are coming back.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Monday that New York City movie theatres would be able to reopen on March 5 at 25% capacity, or up to 50 people per showing. Cuomo also said that assigned seating, social distancing, and other health precautions would be in place.

AMC Theatres’ stock was up about 12% on Monday after Cuomo’s announcement. Cinemark was up over 8%.

New York City is one of the last major theatrical hubs to reopen in the US. Los Angeles, another major market, is still closed. The city’s theatres have been closed since mid-March last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but movie theatres throughout the rest of New York state have already been open at limited capacity.

The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), the largest movie-theatre trade group, released a statement on Monday saying: “New York City is a major market for moviegoing in the U.S.; re-opening there gives confidence to film distributors in setting and holding their theatrical release dates, and is an important step in the recovery of the entire industry.”

It added: “We look forward to expanding the capacity from 25% to 50% in the very near future so that theatres can operate profitably.”

The pandemic has upended the theatrical industry over the last year. The 2020 North American box office declined 80.3% from 2019 and the global box office fell 71.3%, according to Comscore.

Theatres in the US closed in March for five months before reopening again in August ahead of the September release of Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet.” But major chains like Regal and Cineworld soon said they would shut down all locations in the US and UK again as coronavirus cases continued to soar.

In response, movie studios have sought alternatives to movie theatres, accelerating a shift to streaming. Disney and WarnerMedia have reorganized around their streaming businesses, resulting in layoffs. WarnerMedia-owned Warner Bros. is even releasing all of its new movies this year to HBO Max and theatres simultaneously.

Universal, on the other hand, has struck deals with major theatre chains like AMC Theatres (the world’s largest) to shorten the theatrical window from the typical 75 days to in most cases just 17, at which point the studio can debut movies on digital-rental platforms.

Experts says Universal’s strategy could be the new normal, even after the pandemic. AMC even touted the plan as a reason to stay open in October as other chains closed.