It took seven months for Regal Cinemas 13 to open its doors for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic reached a springtime peak, but less than three weeks later, it was again forced to shutter.
With coronavirus cases climbing statewide, Regal announced that it was temporarily closing all of its Long Island theaters, including Lynbrook’s, which reopened on Oct. 23 for the first time since March.
“Regal is temporarily suspending operations at the remainder of our theaters in New York state and California until the public health and operational environment allows for the resumption of a full release slate,” the company said in a statement. “Regal will continue to monitor the situation closely in coordination with guidance from public health officials and will communicate any future plans to resume operations when key markets offer more concrete plans on their reopening status, and in turn, studios are able to bring their pipeline of major releases back to the big screen.”
A manager at the Lynbrook theater told a Herald reporter that all requests for further comment must go through the company’s press line. Several calls and messages were not answered at press time on Tuesday.
Theaters across the state closed in mid-March when Covid-19 cases spiked. Cinemas remained closed despite the gradual reopening of restaurants, bowling alleys and gyms under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s phased plan. On Oct. 8, Cineworld, Regal Cinemas’ parent company, an-nounced that it would indefinitely suspend operations at all of its 536 theaters in the U.S.
Cuomo announced in mid-October that theaters could begin reopening on Oct. 23 in counties with Covid-19 infection rates of less than 2 percent on a 14-day average that do not have any cluster zones, leading to the Lynbrook theater reopening on Oct. 23. However, on Nov. 11, Regal announced another closure, which will last for an indeterminate amount of time.
Lynbrook’s state-of-the-art 83,022- square-foot theater opened to much fanfare in June 2018 after a two-year construction process in which the new facility replaced an antiquated theater. The $21 million project included 13 auditoriums, and upon its opening, Mayor Alan Beach said he was hopeful that it would generate foot traffic for downtown businesses.
When it reopened in October, many local business owners said they believed Regal could reopen safely and hoped the reopening would bring more people to patronize downtown businesses.
In a letter to the Lynbrook/East Rockaway Editor last month, Harry Levitt, the owner of Mur-Lee Men’s and Boy’s Wear, wrote:
“It was nice to see couples and families getting out and trying to bring some normalcy back. These are difficult times, and we need to support our local businesses. Regal has supported our community for more than 50 years by showing free movies when Santa comes to town during Thanksgiving weekend. As a local business owner, I ask the community to please support local businesses. It’s important during these difficult times.”
Lynbrook Mayor Alan Beach said he was disheartened that the theater had to close again so soon after reopening. “I was very excited to have the movie theater open up two weeks ago,” he said. “I, along with many in our community, was disappointed to hear that it closed again. After speaking with one of the managers, this is a temporary closure due to Covid safety precautions and a lack of movies being produced as a result of the pandemic.”
Though many residents said they were uncomfortable with returning to theaters amid the pandemic, several others said they were thrilled to have a sense of normalcy return, even if theater capacity was limited and moviegoers had to wear masks when they were not eating or drinking and practice social distancing.
Pete Keller, of Lynbrook, told the Herald last month that the reopening was “a wonderful idea” and that he “can’t wait to go back.” After it closed again, Keller called it “an absolute shame.”
“I think the safety measures they were employing were more than adequate,” he said. “People could have been kept safe without having to close down a $20 million building. Hopefully they decide to open it before too long.”