9.18.20 - 10.6.20   vol. 16

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The Picture House Regional Film Center and NY Independent Theaters Petition Governor Cuomo for Reopening Guidelines

The Picture House Regional Film Center (TPH) has joined a group of art house cinemas from across New York State to send a clear message to Albany—they’re ready to safely re-open.  Since March 17th, all New York movie theaters have been shuttered in response to the pandemic. Cinemas were originally slated to be part of Phase 4 of the New York Forward re-opening plan. They were pulled from the list of approved businesses just days before that phase began. Other excluded businesses like shopping malls, bowling alleys, gyms, and even casinos have since received state-approved safety guidelines for resuming operations. In interviews, Governor Cuomo has stated that movie theaters are “less essential” and pose a “higher risk” than those other businesses. Art house cinema operators have a counterpoint.


This group of New York art house operators has signed on to a letter (full text of letter below) to Governor Andrew Cuomo calling for the approval of health and safety guidelines for movie theaters in the state.


“New York’s art houses are essential. We bring art – the art of film – to communities, provide arts education to children and adults, bolster our local economies, and act as vital community hubs – especially essential in these times. We fully support and appreciate Governor Cuomo’s efforts to keep New York’s reopening safe. We are simply asking for guidelines and a timeline for our reopening so that we can prepare to provide the safest possible experience for our patrons.”


The cinemas have agreed to follow the CinemaSafe protocols recently released by the National Association of Theater Owners (www.CinemaSafe.org) and have added additional measures such as the temporary elimination of concession sales in regions where indoor dining is currently prohibited.


The theater operators who have signed onto the letter to the governor include:


• Michael Hoagland, Executive Director, Bedford Playhouse - Bedford, NY

• Gina Duncan, VP of Film, The Brooklyn Academy of Music - Brooklyn

• Krissy Smith, Owner, The Callicoon Theater - Callicoon

• Peter Finn, Chairman, Catskill Mountain Foundation - Hunter

• Dylan Skolnick, Co-Director, Cinema Arts Centre - Huntington

• Brett Bossard, Executive Director, Cinemapolis - Ithaca

• Karen Cooper, Director, Film Forum - Manhattan

• Sean Nevison - Historic & Independent Hamilton Movie Theater - Hamilton

• John Vanco, SVP/General Manager, IFC Center - Manhattan

• Brian Ackerman, Programming Director, Jacob Burns Film Center - Pleasantville

• Derek Reis, General Manager, Little Theatre - Rochester

• Carol Sadlon, President, Program Director, The Moviehouse - Millerton

• Laura deBuys, President & Executive Director, The Picture House - Pelham

• Pamela Kray,  Co-chairman, Programming Committee, Rosendale Theatre - Rosendale

• Susan Monagan, Executive Director, The Smith Center for the Arts - Geneva

• Steve Leiber, co-dir, Upstate Films - Rhinebeck & Woodstock


These independent cinemas are predominantly non-profit organizations, and all of them are tightly integrated into the communities they serve. Each provides an immense multiplier of economic impact and will be a crucial component to the economic recovery of downtowns across the state.


Now six months into a forced closure, many independent theaters are losing hope that they’ll be able to open again. Art house cinemas urgently need reconsideration and fairness in opening guidelines.