NEW YORK INDIE THEATERS PETITION GOVERNOR CUOMO FOR APPROVED SAFETY GUIDELINES
Huntington’s Cinema Arts Centre has joined a group of art house cinemas from across New York State to send a clear message to Albany—they’re ready to safely re-open. Since March 17th, all New York movie theaters have been shuttered in response to the pandemic. Cinemas were originally slated to be part of Phase 4 of the New York Forward re-opening plan. They were pulled from the list of approved businesses just days before that phase began. Other excluded businesses like shopping malls, bowling alleys, gyms, and even casinos have since received state-approved safety guidelines for resuming operations. In interviews, Governor Cuomo has stated that movie theaters are “less essential” and pose a “higher risk” than those other businesses. Art house cinema operators have a counterpoint.
“We are prepared to re-open in a manner that mitigates risk and promotes a safe movie going experience for staff and patrons alike,” says Brett Bossard, executive director of Cinemapolis, a five-screen art house in Ithaca. “For hundreds of thousands of devoted patrons, New York’s community-based, mission-driven movie theaters are absolutely essential to their mental health and well-being.”
This group of New York art house operators has signed on to a letter (full text of letter below) to Governor Andrew Cuomo calling for the approval of health and safety guidelines for movie theaters in the state.
“We need the roadmap that will allow us to appropriately prepare our community spaces for safe operations in a post-COVID world,” says Bossard. “New York is one of the last states in the union with no published guidelines for safely reopening cinemas. We’ve created safety protocols to assist in the crafting of standards that fit our unique subset of the film exhibition sector.” The cinemas have agreed to follow the CinemaSafe protocols recently released by the National Association of Theater Owners and have added additional measures such as the temporary elimination of concession sales in regions where indoor dining is currently prohibited.
The theater operators who have signed onto the letter to the governor include:
· Michael Hoagland, Executive Director, Bedford Playhouse – Bedford, NY
· Gina Duncan, VP of Film, The Brooklyn Academy of Music – Brooklyn
· Krissy Smith, Owner, The Callicoon Theater – Callicoon
· Peter Finn, Chairman, Catskill Mountain Foundation – Hunter
· Dylan Skolnick, Co-Director, Cinema Arts Centre – Huntington
· Brett Bossard, Executive Director, Cinemapolis – Ithaca
· Karen Cooper, Director, Film Forum – Manhattan
· Sean Nevison – Historic & Independent Hamilton Movie Theater – Hamilton
· John Vanco, SVP/General Manager, IFC Center – Manhattan
· Brian Ackerman, Programming Director, Jacob Burns Film Center – Pleasantville
· Derek Reis, General Manager, Little Theatre – Rochester
· Carol Sadlon, President, Program Director, The Moviehouse – Millerton
· Laura deBuys, President & Executive Director, The Picture House – Pelham
· Pamela Kray, Co-chairman, Programming Committee, Rosendale Theatre – Rosendale
· Susan Monagan, Executive Director, The Smith Center for the Arts – Geneva
· Steve Leiber, co-dir, Upstate Films – Rhinebeck & Woodstock
These independent cinemas are predominantly non-profit organizations, and all of them are tightly integrated into the communities they serve. Each provides an immense multiplier of economic impact and will be a crucial component to the economic recovery of downtowns across the state.
Now six months into a forced closure, many independent theaters are losing hope that they’ll be able to open again. Art house cinemas urgently need reconsideration and fairness in opening guidelines.
“We’re not looking for special treatment for cinemas,” says Bossard, “just accommodations equivalent to those that have already been afforded to other sectors of the state’s economy.”