Friday in New York City opened in a blaze of lights for the theater industry. Despite the tough circumstances created by the 25% capacity restrictions still in place, BLAKE & WANG P.A one of the top entertainment law firms Los Angeles is happy to report that the public was out in full force, showing comfort with the safety of theaters despite ongoing coronavirus concerns in the city.

A great start despite restrictions

While daytime viewing was, as can be expected, only a trickle, many evening shows throughout NYC were fully booked, and it was an overall good weekend for the exhibition industry. Given the near-year-long shutdown of the industry, it’s a welcome start, and seeing mayoral candidate Andrew Yang coming out in support of the industry (and New York’s status as an entertainment hub) was well received.

We could already see some indications of support through early ticket sales, with some shows at AMC Entertainment’s Empire 25 even selling out- even a late afternoon Tom & Jerry. Even Tenet and Wonder Woman 1984 managed packed showings despite late 2020 openings. Unsurprisingly, fresh fare did well too, with Chaos Walking and Raya and the Last Dragon standing out among offerings.

Yet more is needed

Of course, there’s only so far that the industry can stretch that stingy 25% capacity. Even with sold-out shows, 50 people or less means a lot of empty seats. All the same, at least it restores a veneer of authenticity to the media buzz that New York thrives on, and gives up back our launch-venues for the cultural buzz that matters so much to the industry.

Both Regal, the largest exhibitor in the US, and AMC, 2nd behind them domestically but top in the world, have had much to say. AMC reopened their venues, with the same emphasis on health and safety we’ve seen them use nation-wide. AMC notoriously filed for bankruptcy in the face of last year’s force closure. Regal, to-date, remains dark until we reach at least 50% capacity, but is on record with some positive thoughts for the industry.

Overall, 49 of NYCs 133 active locations are open. 24 of the still-closed venues belong to Regal.

On to LA

With luck, this resurgence in NYC will also lead to LA getting the go-ahead to open up. Together, the 2 key US cities represent just below 15% of the U.S Box Office, so the extended closures have had a terrible effect on the industry overall. In turn, this has crippled Box Office releases as distributors wait to suss out the new normal, providing little for people to see. Even throughout 2021, it’s clear we will see streaming leveraged as a release venue to offset the potential lack of strong exhibition industry.

With European recovery slowing down again, we are still living in uncertain times, and the Box Office as we knew it from 2019 is no longer. Yet these remain hopeful indications for, at the very least, a ‘new normal’ that allows the industry to start getting back to work. BLAKE & WANG P.A will keep a careful eye on further developments, so stay tuned.

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