Movie theaters in New York City will be permitted to open for the first time in nearly a year on March 5, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced at a news conference on Monday.
The theaters will only be permitted to operate at 25 percent of their maximum capacity, with no more than 50 people per screening. Masks will be mandatory, and theaters must assign seating to patrons to guarantee proper social distancing. Tests for the virus will not be required.
Movie theaters were permitted to open with similar limits in the rest of the state in late October, but New York City was excluded out of concern that the city’s density would hasten the spread of the virus there.
The virus has battered the movie theater industry. In October, the owner of Regal Cinemas, the second-largest cinema chain in the United States, temporarily closed its theaters as Hollywood studios kept postponing releases and cautious audiences were hesitant to return to screenings. AMC Entertainment, the world’s largest movie theater chain, has increasingly edged toward bankruptcy.
The economic effects of the pandemic have been particularly felt in New York City, one of the biggest movie markets in the United States. Theaters in the city closed in mid-March, as the region was becoming an epicenter of the pandemic in the country.
While other indoor businesses, including restaurants, bowling alleys and museums had been allowed to open in the city, Mr. Cuomo had kept movie theaters closed out of concern that people would be sitting indoors in poorly-ventilated theaters for hours, risking the further spread of the virus.
Theaters that open will be required to have enhanced air filtration systems. Public health experts say when considering indoor gatherings, the quality of ventilation is key because the virus is known to spread more easily indoors.
Mr. Cuomo’s announcement was applauded by the National Association of Theater Owners.
“New York City is a major market for moviegoing in the U.S.; reopening there gives confidence to film distributors in setting and holding their theatrical release dates, and is an important step in the recovery of the entire industry,” the association said in a statement.
In a statement, AMC’s chief executive, Adam Aron, said the company would open all 13 of its New York City theaters on March 5.
The move came just days after Mr. Cuomo said that indoor family entertainment centers and places of amusement could reopen statewide, at 25 percent maximum capacity, on March 26. Outdoor amusement parks will be allowed to open with a 33 percent capacity limit in April.
The governor also said that the state was working on guidelines to allow pool and billiards halls to reopen after the state lost a lawsuit from pool hall operators. Those establishments will be allowed to reopen at 50 percent capacity with masks required, he said.
Cases in New York remain high despite climbing down from its January peak. Over the last seven days, the state averaged 38 cases per 100,000 residents each day, as of Sunday. That is the second-highest rate per capita of new cases in the last week in the country, after South Carolina.