Movie Theaters Close in Parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

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It marks the first time that there have been widespread closures in the U.S. because of the pandemic.

The first major movie theater closures in the U.S. have begun in parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey amid local government precautions being taken over the coronavirus pandemic.

Cinemas shutting down in Pennsylvania's Montgomery County and New Jersey's Bergen County include 10 AMC locations and a handful of Regal sites.

Among those are AMC's Garden State 16, one of the country's top-grossing theaters. It is located in Paramus, New Jersey, a suburb of New York City that is less than 20 miles northwest of midtown Manhattan.

Separately on Saturday, New York City's Metrograph, an independent cinema on the Lower East Side, has decided to go dark for the time being after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo limited gatherings to no more than 500 people.

Other movie theaters closed in New York include the Alamo Drafthouse, BAM, Film Society at Lincoln Center, Nitehawk Cinema, IFC Center, Metrograph and Film Forum. 

In New Jersey, Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco went even further on Friday in announcing that all movie theaters would be closed. The state has 69 reported cases of COVID-19, with 25 in Bergen County. Gov. Phil Murphy declaring a state of emergency on Monday,

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday issued an advisory that all entertainment venues, including theaters, be closed in Montgomery County. Pennsylvania has 47 reported cases of COVID-19, with 20 in Montgomery County, as of Saturday. 

AMC and Regal did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

While there have been widespread theater closures in Europe and parts of Asia, commencing with China, U.S. movie theaters have stayed open until now, even as seating capacity is reduced in larger auditoriums in order to promote "social distancing."

Any decision to close, as in Bergen and Montgomery counties, will be based on instructions by local and state authorities.

In a message Saturday to its patrons, the Metrograph said: "As COVID-19 spreads and the safety concerns around large group gatherings increases, we will say what we never thought possible: We will stop screenings at 7 Ludlow Street for the time being.

"Our last showtimes will be tonight, after which our theaters will remain closed until we have news and guidance from local and federal authorities as to when it will be safe to reopen theater operations. If you have already purchased tickets, your ticket will be honored at new screenings when we reopen," the post read.