N.Y. movie theaters can reopen Oct. 23

Laurie Poor adjusts a letter on the American Theater’s marquee in Canton in March. Christopher Lenney/ Watertown Daily Times

NEW YORK — Movie theaters can start to reopen in the state Oct. 23 at 25% capacity, or no more than 50 people per movie screen, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday.

“This is outside of New York City in areas that have infection rates below 2% on a 14-day average and have no cluster zones,” Cuomo said.”

Theaters in certain upstate counties do not meet state requirements and are not yet cleared to reopen.

Theaters cannot reopen in Allegany, Broome, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, Cortland, Greene, Orange, Rockland, Schuyler, Steuben or Tioga counties.

For theaters to reopen, masks will be required at all times except when seated and eating or drinking, assigned seating will be required in all theaters and social distancing between parties will be required at all times.

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

Enhanced air filtration, ventilation and purification standards must also be met by theaters, according to the governor’s office.

No more than 50 people are allowed in front of each screen in each movie theater at once. Theaters will be subject to rigorous state guidance and enforcement.

The National Association of Theater Owners of New York State said in a statement that it was "exceptionally pleased" that Cuomo was allowing movie theaters to reopen.

"As theaters have demonstrated in 48 states so far, the moviegoing experience can be enjoyed safely with strict guidelines and protocols in place for health and safety under our industry's CinemaSafe plan. As parts of the state reopen theaters starting this Friday, it is our hope that theaters in New York City follow suit shortly thereafter. We look forward to seeing moviegoers return to the big screen here in the Empire State next week," the statement said

The governor reiterated the importance of local governments and all New Yorkers complying with the state’s coronavirus mandates to prevent a more severe second wave and slow community spread.

“I know these are harsh concepts — I don’t like to talk about compliance and I don’t like to talk about enforcement,” Gov. Cuomo said. “I would love to be able to say what some other elected officials say, ‘Don’t worry be happy. Don’t worry about it. Go out there live your life, open your business.’ ...I would love to be able say that. I would love to. You know the problem? It’s not true.

“...None of us have been here before,” he continued. “We wear a mask, we socially distance. I urge everyone to do it, because to me it’s exact opposite of harshness. It is out of love. And it is out of respect. And it is out of humanity. I want to make sure everyone does everything they can to protect each other. And we are saving lives and it will be over. ... We’ll get there, but we have to get there. And we have to get there together and we have to get there losing as few people as possible.”

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