New York State released its movie theater reopening guidelines on Monday, which Governor Andrew Cuomo was allowed to open for the first time since March (excluding New York City and a few counties) on Friday.
The guidelines don’t hold many surprises in store for operators who are already set up to adhere to the strict CinemaSafe protocols developed by NATO with exhibitors and health professionals. But it will allow them to puncture the i’s and cross the t’s while trying to reopen if they can in less than a week. The governor just made the announcement on Saturday.
The guidelines do not apply to drive-in theaters, live performances, or performing arts venues, states the New York Reopening: Cinema Guidelines for Employers and Employees.
New York Cinema Owners ‘Ecstatic’ on State Reopening, Scramble To Staff Up, Hope Manhattan is quick to follow
See the full document below.
The move is welcome and a real blessing, but New York City is still a big hole. With NYC and Los Angeles both dark, the Hollywood studios have postponed major releases and even pushed the international exhibition business forward where things continue to be in the red.
Boroughs not cleared to open are suffering from clusters of COVID infections the state feared – as are areas in Brooklyn and Queens in NYC. The state closed the school two weeks ago, ran a non-essential business and stepped up the enforcement of masks, social distancing and mass gatherings in these so-called red zones. At a briefing earlier today, Cuomo announced that progress has been made and the infection rate has fallen. He said he could announce a relaxation of restrictions on Wednesday.
Exhibitors hope that the cluster-free theaters in Manhattan can open soon.
The mandatory rules include limiting the capacity to 25% of the occupancy so as not to exceed a maximum of 50 people per screen. Users must wear masks and stay 6 feet physically away unless they are in the same group. Plastic barriers are required when distancing is not possible – for ticketing, concessions, cash registers and ticket acceptance. There must be at least two free seats – or six feet – between guests in the same row.
Contactless payment or prepayment must be an available option. Arrows and indicators for bidirectional pedestrian traffic are mandatory. There is no self-service for food or drink. The playing times must be staggered to allow time for disinfection and to avoid an outdoor gathering.
Air filtration, which was a central concern of the Cuomo administration, takes up a lot of space in the regulations. They require centralized HVAC system filtration “that meets the highest filter performance compatible with currently installed filter racking and ventilation systems” – at least MERV-13, or, if this is not possible, a state-certified expert must confirm that the Filtering meets state standards. The filter is one of the few new items that is stricter than the CinemaSafe requirements.
The seven-page document contains mandatory requirements and a list of recommended best practices. Read the following rules (click to enlarge):