As cinemas in the US start to reopen, distributors and exhibitors are hoping to coax audiences back in front of screens with promises of enhanced safety, unmissable movies – and a personal welcome from the stars.
Liam Neeson will personally greet cinemagoers who go and see his latest action thriller, The Marksman, at the AMC Lincoln Square in New York’s Upper West Side before screenings on Friday.
“This is one for the diary,” Neeson told the Hollywood Reporter earlier this week. “It will be nice to welcome people. I think going to the cinema is a bit of a sacred experience. I’ve felt that way since I was a kid.”
Neeson, 68, also confirmed that he had received his first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
New York is the second-largest market for moviegoing in the US, following Los Angeles, where cinemas remain closed. San Francisco’s screens have recently been given the all-clear to reopen with other cities on the west coast are thought to be not far behind.
New York’s cinemas will be limited to 25% capacity, with a maximum of 50 people in each screening room.
“The reopening of New York is a strong symbolic gesture to the theatre-going audience that it is okay to put your toe in the water,” said Tom Ortenberg, chief of Open Road/Briarcliff, which is distributing The Marksman in the US.
The film opened in a number of territories around the world in January, where it has taken $16.4m to date.
In a poll released on Thursday, the US’s National Research Group suggested moviegoer confidence is now at its highest level since last summer. Studios are capitalising on this sentiment, with a number moving planned release dates forward, following a year of postponements.
The Peter Rabbit sequel, original scheduled for release in February 2020, has moved to 14 May 2021 from 11 June 2021, while the followup to A Quiet Place, which had been set for March 2020, moves forward from this September to 31 May.
AMC is the largest cinema chain in the US. All of its 13 venues in New York will reopen on 5 March, with the Regal chain, which is owned by Cineworld, said to be opening an April reopening.
Plans for cinema reopening in the UK remain contingent on the roadmap out of lockdown remaining unchanged. But current guidance means indoor cinemas in England would be allowed to reopen from 17 May, while outdoor cinemas would be permitted from 12 April.
There is currently no date for reopening for cinemas in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.