For Capital Regionites already worrying that the ongoing pandemic, plus an über-cold, ennui-inducing winter in insolation, is going to lead to Shining levels of insanity, fear not: at least we’ll have our movie theaters back.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that movie theaters outside of New York City—and in those counties that haven’t had recent micro-outbreaks of the COVID-19 virus—can reopen at 25 percent capacity beginning on October 23. If that doesn’t sound like that many warm bodies in a theater at one time, it isn’t: The number of moviegoers in front of a specific screen, during any given showing, will be capped at 50.
What is it going to take for a movie theater to reopen? Per the governor’s office, the COVID-19 positivity rate for its county has to be less than two percent on a 14-day average, and it can’t be located in a “cluster zone” (i.e. an area where there’s been a recent recent outbreak). Theaters, of course, will also be subject to rigorous state guidelines and enforcement. For one, they’ll be required to hire additional staffers to control occupancy, foot traffic and seating. And they’ll be required to install enhanced air filtration, ventilation and purification systems as well.
Moviegoers won’t be off the hook either, before and after the lights go out. Just like in local restaurants, face masks must be worn at all times except when seated and eating or drinking. And sorry, roaming canoodlers and seat-switching so-and-sos; there will be assigned seating to contend with, and social distancing will be required between all parties at all times (we’re assuming that doesn’t include the folks you came with).
Whereas the majority of theaters should be able to reopen on the 23rd in the Capital Region—Regal theaters, such as the one at Crossgates Mall, being an exception to that rule, given their temporary (and possible permanent) closure nationwide—a number of theaters in other counties will have to remain closed until they can get their COVID infection rates up to snuff. These include Allegany, Broome, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, Cortland, Greene, Orange, Rockland, Schuyler, Steuben and Tioga counties.