For the first time in over seven months, Regal Cinemas 13 in Lynbrook opened its doors to patrons on Friday, but with a plethora of new coronavirus rules and regulations.
“We are pleased to see the Lynbrook theater reopening and bringing some vibrancy back to our downtown,” Mayor Alan Beach said. “Management has assured us that they are taking all necessary precautions of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and New York state.”
With many new releases on hold amid the pandemic, theaters across Long Island are screening a mix of new and recent movies, as well as classics. The return brings with it many new regulations from Gov. Andrew Cuomo amid the coronavirus pandemic, which include:
Capacity limited to 25 percent of regular occupancy.
—No more than 50 people per screen.
—Assigned seating and social distancing between parties.
—Masks are mandatory at all times except for when seated and eating or drinking.
—Calls and emails to representatives from Regal Cinemas 13 were not returned at press time.
Theaters across the state closed their doors in mid-March as Covid-19 cases continued to spike. Cinemas then remained closed, despite restaurants, bowling alleys and gyms gradually opening under Cuomo’s phased reopening plan. Then, 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.
Lynbrook’s Regal theater has taken many precautions, which include making tickets and concessions available for purchase in advance, stationing concession staff at opposite ends of the stand, using scanners to check tickets, stocking spare masks for theatergoers and enforcing mask mandates, except for customers who are eating or drinking while seated. Additionally, screening times have been spaced further apart to allow more time to disinfect the theaters, and drinking fountains are not available, including alcoholic beverages from the theater’s bar.
Many Lynbrook residents responded to a Herald Facebook inquiry about the theater’s return, and while the majority said they were happy to see it reopen, some exercised caution amid the pandemic.
Peter Keller was one of many who said he was pleased the theater was reopening, provided health measures were taken. “I think it’s a wonderful idea,” he wrote. ‘As long as all reasonable health precautions are taken, then it should be open. I can’t wait to go back.”
Jill Feldhum Stein said she took her 10-year-old son to see Pixar’s “Monster’s Inc.” on Sunday night and described his face as “priceless.”
“He was so surprised and happy to be able to go back there,” she wrote. “It was a great night. Clean, safe, fun.”
Elizabeth Hinko Marguiles wrote that she was not quite comfortable returning to the movie theater yet. “I don’t know what they are doing to keep things safe,” she wrote. “. . . If I decided to go to the Lynbrook theater, I would probably wait until the last minute to buy tickets online. This way I’d be able to see how many tickets were sold and where available seats are.”
Stephanie Brizard offered a similar opinion. “Covid numbers are increasing, not a time I’d want to go to theaters,” she wrote. “. . . [It] just takes a few folks not to follow rules or be asymptomatic and get others sick. I’ll stick to watching movies at home until this pandemic is over.”
The reopening of the theater comes after Cineworld, the parent company of Regal Cinemas, announced on Oct. 8 that it would indefinitely suspend operations at all of its 536 theaters in the U.S., including the one in Lynbrook. Though the Lynbrook theater remained closed for seven months after the height of the pandemic, Regal reopened theaters in other states in August, but then decided to shutter all of them temporarily.
At that time, Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger said the company did all it could to support and sustain a safe reopening in the U.S., including putting in place health and safety measures and contacting state and local officials to educate them on the initiatives, but it was not given a path toward reopening by elected officials.
“This is not a decision we made lightly,” he said in a news release at the time. “. . . We are especially grateful for and proud of the hard work our employees put in to adapt our theatres to the new protocols and cannot underscore enough how difficult this decision was.”
After Cuomo’s announcement, Cineworld reversed the decision.
Lynbrook’s state-of-the-art 83,022- square-foot theater opened to much fanfare in June 2018 after an arduous two-year construction process in which the new facility replaced an antiquated theater. The $21 million project included 13 auditoriums, and upon its opening, Beach said he was hopeful that it would generate foot traffic for downtown businesses.
Though many businesses have suffered during the pandemic and the theater was shuttered for seven months, Beach said he hoped its reopening would lead to a long-term resurgence of the downtown, while remaining a safe place to attend.
“The theater is at partial capacity for safe social distancing and is routinely sanitized,” he said. “Once we emerge from the pandemic, I want Lynbrook to be strategically positioned to help lead our region forward.”