New York cinemas reopen, brightening outlook for theaters

After growing cobwebs for nearly a year, movie theaters in New York City reopened Friday, returning film titles to Manhattan marquees that had for the last 12 months instead read messages like “Wear a mask” and “We’ll be back soon.”

Shortly after noon at the Angelika Film Center on Houston Street, Holly Stillman was already feeling emotional coming out of the first New York showing of Lee Isaac Chung’s tender family drama “Minari.” “My mask is drenched,” she said.

But she was equally overwhelmed by being back in a cinema. Though Stillman feared the experience would be too restrictive because of COVID-19 protocols, she instead found it euphoric.

“It was just you and the movie screen,” said Stillman. “It was wonderful to smell the popcorn as soon as I got into the theater — even though I don’t eat popcorn.”

Less than half of movie theaters are open nationwide, but reopenings are quickening. Theaters in many other areas reopened last summer around the release of Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” but that attempted comeback fizzled. Throughout, theaters remained shut in the five boroughs. For a year almost to the date, one of the world’s foremost movie capitals stayed dark.

For a theatrical business that has been punished by the pandemic, the resumption of moviegoing in New York is a crucial first step in revival.

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