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NY movie theaters can open Friday, with limits

Aurora Theatre
Movie theaters, like the Aurora Theatre in East Aurora, can open Friday, with limits.

Movie theaters in New York state can reopen beginning Friday, with restrictions on audience size and other precautions in place, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.

Theaters in New York City aren't included, and counties must have a positivity rate below 2% on a 14-day average and have no "cluster zones." Other counties where theaters cannot reopen yet include Allegany, Broome and Steuben.

Audiences will be restricted to 25% of capacity with a maximum of 50 people per screen, Cuomo said at his briefing. Masks will be required and there will be assigned seating to ensure social distancing.

Cuomo’s announcement about allowing a partial reopening of movie theaters was not expected, but a welcome surprise for Scott Pukos, publicity Coordinator for The Little. The independent movie theater on East Avenue in Rochester, operated by public radio's WXXI, has been around since the 1920s.

Pukos says Cuomo’s announcement came on the same day as The Little’s 91st birthday, which he said was a nice “birthday surprise.” Pukos said that it has been 217 days since The Little has been able to show a movie. It has held some virtual screenings, but the theatre doesn't generate a lot of revenue, so keeping the operation going has been a challenge.

Pukos said that even though the theater will open with limited capacity, it will still be a help. The Little has five individual theaters within the complex. Pukos said that the fact that The Little will also be able to rent out theaters for some private events, even with the state restrictions, will also help generate revenue.

The exact date for the reopening is not set yet, but Pukos said if it’s not on the Oct. 23 date set by Cuomo, it would likely be soon afterward.

The numbers on COVID-19 infection rates that the governor released on Sunday show a 1.3% rate of positive cases in Erie County. State and local health officials generally want to see an infection rate of less than 1%.

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