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Is It Safe For New Yorkers To Go Back To Movie Theaters?

New York City movie theater regulations include mandatory mask-wearing, maximum of 50 people.
Posted at 2:47 PM, Mar 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-04 16:47:00-05

Around this time last year, the city that never sleeps went quiet... really quiet. 

But for the first time since the start of the pandemic, movie theaters are reopening in New York City. 

"I'm so excited! Finally, it's opening." 

"I'm probably gonna wait until I get vaccinated."

"I want to go to the movie theaters!" "And Joshua wants to go to the movie theaters, but we will continue watching movies at home."

A recent poll from the National Research Group found that 53 percent of respondents saw movie theaters as "very or somewhat safe." That's higher than other indoor activities on the survey like restaurants and religious services. 

That may be promising for reopening cinemas, but the big question to consider next is: are movie theaters actually safe? 

Stephen Morse, Professor of Epidemiology at Columbia University: "It's still a risky experiment to open the movie theaters. Personally, I think I'll wait a while longer." 

Experts say going to the movies still carries risk, but there are a couple things to consider to gauge that risk: Does the building have good ventilation? Are the lobbies and restrooms crowded? How are the seats arranged? And are mask policies put in place? 

Morse said, "Under the best of circumstances with good ventilation, and taking all of those precautions seriously, it should be possible to do this safely. … But we shouldn't be complacent about it."

"It's gonna depend on seating." 

"I plan to wear my mask while I'm in the theater…"

"Masks on, no drinks, no food. Why not?"  

But even in perfect conditions, experts are warning moviegoers to stay vigilant — especially amid worries about a new variant of the coronavirus in New York City.

"This is the time we really have to be careful, because there may be a feeling that there's light at the end of the tunnel, we see the light, but we're still in the tunnel," said Morse.


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