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The executive committee of the Global Cinema Federation sent a letter Wednesday to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo imploring the lawmaker — who has allowed indoor dining and other pubic-facing activities to resume operation — to let movie theaters reopen wherever possible.
As long New York City cinemas remains off limits, Hollywood studios will continue to delay their remaining 2020 event pics, or send those titles straight to home entertainment or premium VOD, according to the letter, which was signed by federation chairman and Cinepolis CEO Alejandro Ramirez Magaña and other members of the executive committee.
“Without new movies to play in our cinemas, many members of the global exhibition community will be forced to close their doors again. Many of these companies will not survive,” stated the letter. “On August 19 you said, ‘movie theaters, I think, are next.’ More than a month later, there is still no clear path for movie theater reopenings in New York. This state of limbo, with no set reopening plans or dates, is what is scaring the studios away from releasing their films this year.”
As it stands now, the only live-action tentpole left on the 2020 calendar is Wonder Woman 1984, which is set to hit the big screen over Christmas, including on Dec. 25 in North America. Sources say Warner Bros. and director Patty Jenkins are determined to hold to the date, but that it could prove impossible if theaters in New York City and Los Angeles aren’t yet open.
The GCF thanked Cuomo and his staff for “their tireless work and leadership” throughout the COVID-19 crisis before “humbly” asking that he reconsider his decision keep movie theaters shut.
“We recognize your commitment to ensuring that the citizens of New York remain safe and protected from COVID-19. With certain zip codes in New York seeing spikes of the virus, we are, of course, not suggesting that you open the entire state at once. We are, however, requesting that you adopt a plan similar to that in California, where Gov. Newsom has allowed openings on a county-by-county basis according to virus data,” the letter continued.
The GCF cited the CinemaSafe protocols developed by the National Association Theatres and endorsed by epidemiologists for their ability to minimize the risk of transmission of COVID-19. “With these guidelines in place, evidence strongly suggests that the movie-going experience is safer than other activities such as indoor dining or attending religious services,” stated the letter, which cited a study showing that a silent person may be 14 times less potentially infectious than a person who is speaking and 90 times less than a person who is singing.
“Furthermore, according to the scientists, even in a small indoor setting, it would take approximately 192 minutes (or over 3 hours) for an infected patient to contaminate the space if the patient is sedentary. The risk is further diminished in a large well-ventilated movie theater auditorium where guests are facing one direction, wearing masks and not speaking,” read the letter.
To date, there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 traced to a movie theater, according to both the GCF and NATO.
“It is genuinely no exaggeration to say that the continued closure of cinemas in your state has put their future in jeopardy, and we ask that exhibitors in New York be given the opportunity to operate again. We welcome the opportunity to meet with you and work together on a plan to reopen New York’s cinemas,” the letter concluded.
GCF’s membership consists of over 100 companies including exhibitors and trade associations in six continents and over 90 countries, and hundreds of thousands of employees worldwide.
Last week, Richard Azzopardi, senior adviser to Cuomo, addressed the issue of movie theaters. “We understand some people are unhappy, but you know what? Better unhappy than sick or worse,” he said. “We’re moving heaven and earth trying to stop a second wave and people need to acknowledge that we’re still in a pandemic and start to act like it.”
The other signatories of Tuesday’s letter to Cuomo included AMC Theatres CEO Adam Aron, Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi, Cineplex CEO Ellis Jacob, Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger, Event Cinemas CEO Jane Hastings, NATO CEO John Fithian, Toho Cinemas president Takayuki Ikeda, Vue International CEO Tim Richards and Wanda CEO John Zeng.
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