Coronavirus News: Owners of still-shuttered New York movie theaters plead for reopening

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Movie theaters in New Jersey re-opened last week, and you can go see a movie on big screens in Connecticut, but Governor Andrew Cuomo still hasn't said when cinemas in New York can be back in business.

For Hollywood, the losses from the summer movie season have been staggering because movie studios typically make more than 40% of their profits between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Six months after movie screens went dark in New York City, theater owners are sending Cuomo a simple message.

"We are ready," said John Fithian, president and CEO of the National Association of Theater Owners. "We are safe. It is time to open movie theaters in New York."

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He notes movies like "Tenet" have already opened in 45 states, including New Jersey.

"'Tenet' has already done more than $150 million globally," he said. "Its opening here in the United States was over $20 million, U.S. and Canada combined. Are those the numbers that we would have had pre-pandemic? No, but they're decent numbers, and they show that people are ready to come back."

And when theaters reopen, Fithian promises customers will be safe.

"We have spent months working with epidemiologists to have scientifically backed safety protocols for returning to cinemas, and we believe we actually present a healthier environment than restaurants which the governor has already decided to open up," he said.

The theater chains he represents are desperate to reopen, and AMC alone has lost more than half a billion dollars.

Losses are so great some companies could have to declare bankruptcy.

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"Will all our companies survive in their current form long term?" Fithian said. "Probably not."

After U.S. theaters were forced to close, big movies like "Black Widow" were bumped from the spring to the fall. "Top Gun: Maverick" was moved from summer to winter.

Fithian warns his members are looking at a $6 billion-plus loss in 2020, and with so many streaming movies at home, the future of the entire movie business is in flux.

Still, Fithian remains hopeful.

"I don't think it fundamentally changes the fact that for the vast majority of movies, it makes sense to go theatrical first before you go to the home," he said.

That's true for now, but some independent observers think eventually theaters will be reserved for blockbusters best seen on a big screen while smaller films go straight into our homes.

For now, theater owners want customers to feel safe as cinemas reopen. So they've created a website called CinemaSafe to explain procedures, including social distancing and mask requirements.

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