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New York City movie theatres to reopen in early March

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York City movie theatres can open their doors again at limited capacity starting March 5, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

Movie theatres can only operate at 25% capacity, with no more than 50 people per screening, Cuomo said.

His announcement came nearly a year after he shuttered movie theatres statewide in mid-March last year along with concert venues and nightclubs as part of efforts to limit spread of COVID-19 in crowded, indoor settings. Cuomo eased restrictions last fall to allow movie theatres to re-open at limited capacity in most counties outside of densely populated New York City.

The governor said theatres must require and enforce assigned seating, masks and social distancing. He said they also need to meet the state's air filtration standards.

Cuomo has pushed this year to start easing COVID-19 restrictions on businesses in hopes of jumpstarting an economy hit by a drop in sales tax revenue.

The state weathered a mid-January spike in cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

Cases and hospitalizations are now dropping overall statewide, but parts of New York City — particularly the Bronx — are still seeing high rates of infection and slower declines in hospitalization.

Cuomo's move drew praise from theatre owners who have pushed for months for the governor to ease restrictions, and who hope Cuomo will soon expand capacity to 50%.

“New York City is a major market for moviegoing in the U.S.,” National Association of Theater Owners spokesperson Patrick Corcoran said. "Re-opening 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.”

Marina Villeneuve, The Associated Press