NYC movie theater owners warn reopening plan isn't enough

Lucy Yang Image
Tuesday, March 2, 2021
'Not enough': Movie theater owner says 25% capacity is too little
A Brooklyn movie theater owner tells Lucy Yang his business won't survive at 25% capacity.

BROOKLYN, New York (WABC) -- Loosening COVID restrictions are allowing movie theaters in New York City to reopen this week to limited capacity, but one owner say it's not enough to save his business.

The Elgart family has been running small, neighborhood movie theaters for three successful decades.

On Friday, March 5, New York City will allow movie theaters to reopen at 25% capacity, which would put it in line with the rest of the state.

In order to do so, theaters can have no more than 50 people per screening, and guests must sit in assigned seats, wear masks and social distance.

After almost a year in the dark, the Elgart family is thrilled they can finally entertain the neighborhood again, but at 25% capacity, owner Andrew Elgart says it's not enough. He says the numbers don't add up.

"My biggest screen has over 220 seats. Which means I can put 50 people," Elgart said. "My other theaters have 100 seats, which means I'll only be able to do 25."

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Meanwhile, his utilities and mortgage are all still at 100%. He says the reduced ticket sales would not even be enough to heat the theater.

"Staff. Water. You name it, you would be running at a loss," Elgart said.

So, he is trying to think of ways to generate more income.

Since the pandemic, he has opened his theater to PS 58 next door. Every day, about three dozen students go there for their virtual classes.

Another option, the owners are thinking about offering private showings, where movie lovers can rent out the entire theater for family and friends. But again, only 25% capacity.

"I still believe in going to a movie," Elgart said.

He says he can't wait to welcome back customers. But he won't be ready by Friday. Perhaps later this month.

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"It's how much are we going to lose? Tons? Half? Or do we close and not lose as much?" Elgart said.

The grim reality -- this theater cannot operate at a loss for long. No business can.

They are hoping the city will allow for 50% capacity soon.

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