Unlike in one or the other museum in the city, no body temperature is measured here. However, all cinema-goers must wear mouth and nose protection and sit in assigned seats. Some rows are marked with signs: “social distancing – Row unavailable”. A capacity of only 25 percent or around 50 people per screen is allowed.
15 minutes before the performance of “The Father”, a new drama starring Anthony Hopkins, no one is sitting in the cinema. Maybe that’s because of the difficult topic – Alzheimer’s – maybe it’s because people have been watching movies from their couches for almost a year. Slowly people trickle in from the street, but there is no big rush. There won’t be more than 11 spectators. Before the film is shown, a nice lady from behind two masks and a face shield mumbles something about “Welcome back to Movie Magic” and then reads out some information about the new safety precautions. Is this what the magic of cinema looks like now?
When New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced two weeks ago that the cinemas in the metropolis would be allowed to reopen under strict conditions, that was of course a ray of hope for cinema owners whose business had been destroyed by a complete standstill, but opening a cinema is not like that just like turning on a projector. The movie theaters need time to recruit and train staff based on new protocols. That won’t happen overnight. For many, it may even be more financially profitable to stay closed.
The capacity limit of 25 percent is too restrictive to make money. “That’s just a total loss of sales. The effort involved in running a cinema is simply enormous, “said Harvey Elgart, owner of smaller New York cinemas, to the” New York Post “. “It’s a big cash flow problem opening up with so few people. I actually feel better if I stay closed. “
Like Harvey Elgart, others including Cinepolis in Chelsea, Film at Lincoln Center, Anthology Film Archives, Alamo Drafthouse and Metrograph have not yet announced a reopening date. The Greenwich Village Film Forum plans to open its doors on April 2nd.
For AMC Theaters, the largest cinema chain in the USA, which was able to avoid bankruptcy again in January of this year, it was more realistic to reopen on March 5, despite the short time of two weeks – just in time for the theatrical release of “Raya und the last dragon ”and“ Chaos Walking ”. The second largest, Regal Entertainment, will remain closed until further notice, probably until more people are allowed in each room and the screens in Los Angeles are bright again. The Californian coastal city, along with New York, is one of the most important markets in the USA, and as long as they are closed, the blockbusters will not happen either.
In the absence of cinemas, a lot has changed in the film landscape in the past year. Major Hollywood studios have postponed their blockbuster launches or are directly releasing them for streaming. Our own habits of how we watch movies have changed. Warner Bros. has released its entire 2021 roster for streaming on the same day the films hit theaters. That was unimaginable up to now. Time will tell if people will return to theaters.
We are fortunate enough to live in a time when thousands of movies are available on our televisions and computers at the touch of a button. Even so, there are a few things that home theater cannot replicate, including some aspects of going to the cinema that were taken for granted until early March last year: getting lost in a giant screen; a sound that fills the whole room; just put the cell phone aside for a few hours; even the annoying mess of popcorn down the street and even the loud rumbling of the New York subway that everyone else complains about.