With the Coronavirus (COVID-19) quickly spreading throughout the United States, the mayors of the two biggest markets have ordered movie theaters to close temporarily. The order also includes restaurants, bars and cafes (though take-out and delivery is allowed), as well as nightclubs, small theaters houses and concert venues.
UPDATE: Regal Cinemas is closing all their theaters starting on Tuesday, March 17 for an indefinite amount of time.
New York mayor Bill de Blasio issued the following statement:
“Our lives are all changing in ways that were unimaginable just a week ago. We are taking a series of actions that we never would have taken otherwise in an effort to save the lives of loved ones and our neighbors. Now it is time to take yet another drastic step.
“The virus can spread rapidly through the close interactions New Yorkers have in restaurants, bars and places where we sit close together. We have to break that cycle. Tomorrow, I will sign an Executive Order limiting restaurants, bars and cafes to food take-out and delivery.
“Nightclubs, movie theaters, small theater houses, and concert venues must all close. The order will go into effect Tuesday, March 17 at 9:00 AM.
“This is not a decision I make lightly. These places are part of the heart and soul of our city. They are part of what it means to be a New Yorker. But our city is facing an unprecedented threat, and we must respond with a wartime mentality.
“We will come through this, but until we do, we must make whatever sacrifices necessary to help our fellow New Yorkers.”
His statement was followed quickly by a similar order from Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti.
“I’m taking executive action to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in @LACity by closing bars, nightclubs, restaurants (except takeout/delivery), entertainment venues and gyms until March 31 unless extended. Grocery stores will remain open.”
Movie theaters themselves are also implementing a 50% policy at their locations that are staying open. AMC Theatres will keep the policy until at least April 30, 2020.
“In so doing, AMC reaffirms its commitment to follow CDC recommendations on social distancing to optimize the health and welfare of its theatre guests and employee teams,” said the theater chain.
“Therefore, in addition to capping ticket availability at 50% of normal seating capacity, AMC will further limit attendance for each and every showtime in all its open U.S. theatres to a maximum of 50 people. The CDC has recommended a limitation on gatherings to a maximum of 50 people, but that is not a legal requirement for businesses in most U.S. jurisdictions. AMC also is complying with all governmental mandates to close certain theatres, restaurants or bars as may be applicable.”
AMC CEO and President Adam Aron, “The health of our guests and employee teams comes first for AMC. Therefore, effective immediately, at all our U.S. theaters that are open, we will limit ticket sales per showtime in each of our theatre auditoriums to a maximum of 50% of normal seating capacity AND a maximum of 50 people, whichever is less. With this action AMC continues its commitment to adhere to recommendations of the CDC on social distancing, which is an extremely important concept in these unprecedented times.”
Regal Cinemas is following a similar policy in which they are reducing auditorium capacity by 50%.
Cinemark Theatres is also telling its customers that is is reducing seat capacity in each auditorium by at least 50 percent.
And Marcus Theatres (and Movie Tavern) is planning to limit seating capacity at its theatres. “The change will go into effect as early as today, but the full-scale plan begins Wednesday, March 18 until further notification,” said the chain. “With the well-being and safety of guests and associates a top priority, this formal social distancing seating plan helps create space between guests and is in alignment with updated guidelines from health agencies locally and nationally.”
Meanwhile, Alamo Drafthouse had already closed its Brooklyn and Yonkers locations. The theaters remaining open will include a gap in between seats when you make your selection. “To additionally reduce close contacts, starting Friday, March 13th, we’re changing ticketing on drafthouse.com and the Alamo Drafthouse app… When you select seats, our system will automatically place a ‘buffer’ seat on either side of your selection. These buffer seats will disappear, and then be unavailable for other guests to purchase.”