New York City, the nation’s leading movie market along with still-shuttered Los Angeles, hoped to spring back to life this past weekend after being flattened by Covid-19 for nearly a year.
But a pulse was detected in advance ticket sales with a handful of shows selling out at AMC Entertainment’s flagship Empire 25 theater in Times Square including a 4:30 p.m. Tom & Jerry and evening screenings of Boogie, Nomadland, Promising Young Woman, Wonder Woman 1984 and Tenet — as the Christopher Nolan pic released August 12 bends the laws of time. New releases Raya and the Last Dragon and Chaos Walking were big sellers on Day One uptown at the AMC Magic Johnson.
One excited customer is NYC mayoral candidate Andrew Yang — who had a date night to celebrate. “That dinky, and let’s be honest, tacky, sign in LA can’t mask the fact NYC is the real entertainment capital. So get your popcorn ready, folks, because movie theaters are back in action and it’s date night at the Yang household,” the former Democratic presidential hopeful said in a press advisory. He’ll be hitting the AMC Empire but didn’t say which film.
But at 25% capacity — the limit set by Gov. Andrew Cuomo — sold-out shows don’t mean what they used to. When Cuomo announced the reopening on February 22, he limited theaters to one out of every four available seats and no more than 50 people. That’s a lot of X’s on the seating chart. If you reserve at an AMC, the system automatically blocks out the seats on either side.
As vaccines roll out with increasing efficiency and Covid-19 cases fall in New York (and nationally), some in the industry think New York City could raise the 25% capacity to 50% relatively soon – maybe May or June. Theaters in the rest of New York State are already open at 50% capacity. This decision may have also helped get the state’s governor’s sexual harassment charges out of the news.
Will it work? Will the cinema business in the Big Apple be saved? Or is this too little too late?