Reopen NYC: What you can expect inside movie theaters finally reopening

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Nearly a year after being closed, movie theaters across New York City are back in business.

The much-anticipated reopening comes with changes due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

AMC Lincoln Square opened at noon, and it's a different experience now.

You have to wear a mask unless you're eating or drinking, and there are no more self-serve beverage stations. An employee fills it for you instead.

Some things are not changing, though, like movie theater popcorn. But what many people are wondering is if the public will come back?

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New York City is one of the last places in the country to reopen theaters, but despite that, it's still too soon for Charles Swencionis, of Manhattan's Upper West Side.

He said he is holding off, even though Governor Andrew Cuomo is limiting capacity inside movie theaters to just 25%, up to a maximum of 25 people per screen regardless of the theater's size.

"I mean I've had my second vaccination, and it will be fully effective next week," Swencionis said. "But I'm not ready, and people are opening too fast all over the country."

Inside theaters, employees are covered up, and there is lots of elbow room. So if you are ready to go to the movies this weekend, you will have plenty of space.

For its part, AMC is promising that no patron will have someone sitting next to them on either side, behind, or in front.

The industry is counting on people like Carlos Marte, of Washington Heights.

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"We have to try and get back to normal somehow," he said. "I like movies. Movie theaters will always have a place. It doesn't matter if there's streaming services. There's nothing like coming to the movies with your family, your kids and the smell of popcorn and stuff."

AMC, the nation's largest movie theater chain, almost went bankrupt last year. And small, independent theaters are not fairing much better.

Andrew Elgart, owner of the Cobble Hill Cinemas in Brooklyn, said 25% capacity is not going to pay the bills.

"My biggest screen has over 220 seats, which means I can put 50 people," he said. "My other theatres have 100 seats, which means I'll only be able to do 25. It's, 'How much are we going to lose?' Tons? Half? Or do we close and not lose as much?"

Making thing worse for theaters is the fact that so many studios are releasing films direct to streaming.

The "Coming to America" sequel debuts Friday, but it will not be in theaters.

And while Disney's Raya and the Last Dragon - from abc7ny's parent company - IS showing in theaters, you can also stream it at home if you prefer.

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