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Movie theaters outside New York City to reopen at 25% capacity, Cuomo says


By Maria Caspani

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Movie theaters outside of New York City will be allowed to reopen on Oct. 23 after a months-long hiatus spurred by the coronavirus, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Saturday.

Theaters will be required to cap capacity at 25% with a maximum of 50 people per screen, and only in counties that have a positivity rate below 2% on the 14-day-average and no cluster areas, Cuomo said.

Moviegoers will be required to wear masks except when seated and eating or drinking. Theaters will be required to meet enhanced standards for air filtration and ventilation.

The governor announced the move at a Saturday briefing where he said New York was making progress in tackling COVID-19 "clusters" in certain areas of the state, including Brooklyn and Queens in New York City.

"The strategy is working," Cuomo said, pointing to decreasing positivity rates in so-called "red zones." "Not just the micro clusters, the whole statewide strategy is working."

Cuomo has come under pressure from cinema operators for not allowing theaters to reopen sooner. Last week, the executive committee of the Global Cinema Federation, which represents cinema operators and other industry leaders worldwide, sent a letter to the Democratic governor asking him to reverse his decision to keep theaters closed.

Cinema operators are buckling under the financial strain of the pandemic.

Attendance at the world's largest movie theater chain, AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc , has slumped 85% compared to last year since its cinemas reopened after lockdowns were eased in some states, the company said.

With the pandemic changing consumer behavior globally, more viewers are being driven to digital video services as people spend more time at home due to restrictions on movement and a switch to working from home, which has shuttered theaters.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Tom Brown)

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