The lights are going out in the movie theaters of two of the biggest cities in the country. New York and Los Angeles movie theaters are closing in response to the coronavirus pandemic. It will be the first time in history that movie theaters have shuttered en masse over an issue that is not weather-related.
Variety reports that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti have ordered movie theaters in their respective cities to close due to coronavirus concerns. It’s the latest dramatic step by both cities to curb the spread of coronavirus, or COVID-19, and comes shortly after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that public gatherings of more than 50 people be canceled for the next eight weeks.
“This is not a decision I make lightly,” de Blasio wrote Sunday night on Twitter. “These places are part of the heart and soul of our city. They are part of what it means to be a New Yorker. But our city is facing an unprecedented threat, and we must respond with a wartime mentality. We will come through this, but until we do, we must make whatever sacrifices necessary to help our fellow New Yorkers.”
New York City will close restaurants, nightclubs, small theater houses, and concert venues starting Tuesday at 9 a.m., with public schools closed at least through April 20. Restaurants are limited to only take-out and delivery orders starting March 17. Meanwhile, Los Angeles bars, nightclubs, gyms and entertainment venues will also be closed until March 31, unless an extension is announced. However, Garcetti noted that grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open. These rules only apply to Los Angeles City, so smaller municipalities within LA County, including Santa Monica, Beverly Hill, and Pasadena, will not be immediately subject to the policy.
Private movie theaters in New York have been announcing closures since Friday night, with the Metrograph, the Nighthawk Cinema, and the Alamo Drafthouse in Brooklyn and Yonkers announcing that they’re suspending all programming until further notice. One of the biggest movie chains in the U.S., AMC Theatres, also announced that they would cut seating capacity by 50%, but remain open. Now, however, the 21 locations in New York City will be closing per de Blasio’s measures in an effort to slow the spread of the virus in the nation’s largest city.
The closure of multiplexes in two major moviegoing markets in the U.S. will damage the global box office, which has already taken a hit this weekend with public fears of gathering in public spaces, recording the lowest box office numbers in 22 years.
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