New York City, the country’s leading film market with Los Angeles still closed, comes to life on Friday after being crushed by Covid-19 for nearly a year.
A pulse was detected during advance ticket sales with a handful of shows sold at AMC Entertainment’s flagship Empire 25 theater in Times Square, including at 4:30 p.m. Tom and Jerry and evening screenings of Boogie, Nomadland, Promising Young Woman, Wonder Woman 1984 and Principle – as Christopher Nolan’s photo published on August 12 flies in the face of the laws of time. New versions Raya and the last dragon and Walk in chaos were big sellers on day one in the upscale AMC Magic Johnson neighborhoods.
One enthusiastic client is New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang – he will be heading for a date night to celebrate. “This dinky, and let’s be honest, clingy signing in LA can’t hide the fact that NYC is the real entertainment capital. So pack your popcorn, my friends, because the cinemas are back in action and it’s date night at Yang’s, ”the former Democratic presidential hopeful said in a press advisory. He’s going to hit the AMC Empire but hasn’t said what movie.
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But at 25% of its capacity – the limit set by Governor Andrew Cuomo – sold-out shows no longer mean what they used to do. When Cuomo announced the reopening on February 22, it limited venues to one in four available seats and no more than 50 people. That’s a lot of X’s on the seating chart. If you book at an AMC, the system automatically locks the seats on each side.
Imax CEO Rich Gelfond, who lives in New York City, said he’s happy the theaters are opening and he’ll be going – but not for a week and a half. He is busy and does not expect a financial windfall. “Given the capacity limits, I think the numbers are just too small to be meaningful.” A sold-out show? “It’s 50 people,” maximum, he told Deadline. “What’s more important is that New York is the media capital of the world, and you can’t really kick off a blockbuster without the cultural buzz that comes out of this city.”
New York theater owners have been waiting for this for a long time. Expected and expected, hooked up to every Cuomo press briefing with gasps and growing grief as business after business – from indoor dining to bowling alleys to gyms – got the nod to reopen.
AMC, the world’s largest exhibitor and second in the United States after Regal, has opened its 13 locations in New York City, today promising “an enhanced theatrical experience” and emphasizing health and safety. The chain, which has flirted with bankruptcy for much of the past year, “is delighted to welcome our New York guests back to AMC’s big seats, big sounds and big screens,” said said CEO Adam Aron. The chain has opened more than 500 theaters across the country.
Regal, which closed all of its US theaters in October, said it was “encouraged” by the New York move, but remained in the dark – including the giant Regal E-Walk directly across from 42nd rue de l’Empire AMC. “We look forward to the capacity restrictions reaching 50% or more so that we can operate profitably,” said a representative from Regal.
Alamo Drafthouse, the specialty channel that filed for Chapter 11 earlier this week to sell itself to a group of investors, said it was “so excited that we have the opportunity to bring what we have learned about creating the safest, most relaxing movie experience possible. at our flagship Brooklyn site. It hasn’t been done for today – “There’s a lot to do – but we look forward to reopening City Point as soon as possible, and we’ll be making a lot of noise when we do.”
According to distribution sources, 49 theaters are expected to be active this weekend at 133 active New York sites in total (not counting some theaters in New Jersey and Connecticut that go under the New York DMA). Some 84 theaters will remain inactive this weekend; 24 of them are Regal sites.
Los Angeles, the country’s largest film market, is also preparing to open theaters. The shutdown of NY and Los Angeles, which together account for 12% to 14% of the US box office, has been accused of the studios not meeting their release schedules. This slowed down the entire exposure because even intrepid moviegoers in areas where theaters were open and not held back by the nervousness of a pandemic had little to see.
As vaccines roll out with increasing effectiveness and Covid-19 cases drop in New York City (and nationwide), some in the industry believe New York City could boost capacity by 25% to 50% relatively soon – maybe in May or June. Theaters in the rest of New York State are already open at 50% capacity.
But in a changing pandemic equation, Europe is now recovering more slowly than the United States and some fear the broadcast list will change. Yesterday Universal’s F9 was expelled a third time from May to June, and Minions: The Rise of Gru moved one year until July 2022. (Paramount’s A Quiet Place, Part II moved up, taking the F9 slot).
Cinemas in England will only reopen on May 17th. In Germany, under a five-step process, cinemas may be able to reopen from March 22 at the earliest. Italy has set a date for March 27. France does not have a reopening plateau. “I think the United States will be in good shape around May from a public perception standpoint,” Gelfond said. Other countries “are a little behind and a little slower”.
Anthony D’Alessandro contributed to this report.