Area movie theaters prep for reopening


Now that theaters have been given the OK by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to re-open its cinemas under COVID-19 guidelines that includes limited capacity, some local owners and operators are hoping to “see you at the movies.”

But the limited re-opening, due to a few of the restrictions and the lack of films being made available to put up on the big screen, have some owners a bit skeptical about what that will actually mean for their business.

Conrad Zurich, president of Zurich Cinemas Corporation headquartered in Fayetteville, Onondaga County, who owns and operates local Rome Cinemas and Movieplex Cinema in Oneida, said according to guidelines just released by the governor Monday evening, cinemas would be limited to a 25 percent capacity.

With the “luxury plush” reclining seats installed three years ago inside his theaters, Zurich said space is already limited, on top of restricting audiences to 25 percent capacity. And in addition to that, cinemas across the country are at the mercy of film companies who in response to the pandemic shutdowns, have dramatically changed release schedules for major movies.

Because many films anticipated to be blockbuster hits, like James Bond’s “No Time to Die,” Disney’s animated “Soul,” superhero epic “Wonder Woman 1984,” and the science-fiction adventure, “Dune,” had release dates pushed back — some more than once — Zurich said there is a limited product available to offer movie-goers right now. In order to recoup from the shutdowns, film companies also opted to stream many of their films online instead.

“Unfortunately, I can’t open this week,” said Zurich. “There’s two problems: Some movies they had intended for release into theaters, changed to a Netflix type of showing. Others they took away from theaters anywhere from six months to a year — they moved back the release dates which disrupts the orderly flow of the product. We can’t have enough pictures to play, and we can only use 25 percent of our seats. We want to open, but unfortunately we’ll have to wait.”

The company president said he hopes that as New York continues to keep its number of COVID-19 cases under control, that film companies will be given more of an incentive to release movies to theaters.

In the meantime, Cinema Capitol, part of the Capitol Arts Complex at 230 W. Dominick St., is celebrating its re-opening with one new and one classic animated feature.

Starting on Friday and running through Monday, Cinema Capitol will feature the comedy “On the Rocks” starring Bill Murray. And in celebration of the upcoming Halloween holiday, the theater will feature screenings of “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”

“We can only operate at 25 percent, which means 12 people” will be allowed “in one theater and 19 in the other,” said Capitol Executive Director Art Pierce. “The plan is to operate Friday through Monday for the present, and we’ll see how it goes. We will probably use the historic Capitol — where we can have 50 people — for a couple of shows, but we’ll be closing it for an extended period pretty soon for the restoration. But the plan is to keep the cinema operating right through the restoration of the main theater.”

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced that movie theaters outside of New York City can re-open at 25 percent capacity under state guidance starting Friday.

No more than 50 people are allowed in front of each screen in each movie theater at once. Theaters can only open outside of New York City in counties that have COVID-19 positivity rates of less than 2 percent on a 14-day average and do not have any cluster zones. Theaters will be subject to rigorous state guidance and enforcement.

State guidance on the re-opening of theaters includes the following conditions:

Masks will be required at all times except when seated and eating or drinking. 

Assigned seating will be required in all theaters.

Social distancing between parties will be required at all times.

Additional staffing will be required to control occupancy, traffic and seating to ensure compliance.

Enhanced air filtration, ventilation and purification standards must be met by theaters.   

One of the first movies to play as Cinema Capitol re-opens will be the newly-released comedy “On the Rocks.”

Directed by Academy Award nominee Sophia Coppola, the movie stars Bill Murray and Rashida Jones and will play from Friday, Oct. 23, through Monday, Oct. 26.

“On the Rocks” tells the story of a young mother named Laura who reconnects with her playboy father on an adventure through New York City. Laura has become suspicious that her career-driven husband may be having an affair, a speculation encouraged by her caddish, bon vivant father. The two set out to determine if these speculations are indeed true. Also starring in the movie are Marlon Wayans, Jessica Henwick and Jenny Slate.

Show times for “On the Rocks” are Friday and Saturday at 3:40 and 6:40 p.m., Sunday at 12:40 and 3:40 p.m., and Monday at 6:40 p.m. Friday’s 3:40 and Sunday’s 12:40 p.m. shows will include captions for the hearing-impaired. “On the Rocks” runs 96 minutes and is rated R for language and sexual references.

And following two successful outdoor screenings, Cinema Capitol will continue its run of the Halloween classic, “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” The movie will play on Friday, Sunday, and Monday — no Saturday shows will be offered. 

Produced by Tim Burton and with music by Danny Elfman, the stop-motion animated movie follows the misadventures of Jack Skellington. Halloweentown’s beloved pumpkin king, he has become bored with the same annual routine of frightening people in the “real world.”

When Jack accidentally stumbles upon Christmastown, all bright colors and warm spirits, he gets a new lease on life. He plots to bring Christmas under his control by kidnapping Santa Claus and taking over the role. But Jack soon discovers that even the best-laid plans can go seriously awry.

Upon its release, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” was nominated for an Oscar for “Best Visual Effects,” as well as a Golden Globe for “Best Original Score.” The movie has developed a cult following over the years and maintains a 95 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

“The Nightmare Before Christmas” will play at Cinema Capitol on Friday, Oct. 23 at 4 and 7 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 25 at 1 and 4 p.m., and Monday, Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. Each screening will be preceded by a Halloween-themed cartoon. There will be no captioned show times for this movie. “The Nightmare Before Christmas” runs 76 minutes and is rated PG.

All patrons are required to wear masks, though these can be removed when seated for the movie. Parties will be socially-distanced at least 6 feet apart.  

Tickets for both films are $8; $7 for seniors, students, and military, and $6 for Capitol “Friends.”

Since the Cinema is only admitting 25 percent of its capacity, it is recommended that patrons purchase tickets in advance. These can be purchased at or by calling 315-337-6277.  


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