New York’s Artwork Home Film Theaters Awaken After Yr Of Hibernation – .
Popcorn and all other concessions will not be sold in the IFC Center, at least for the time being. But movies, current movies, will be projected onto all five screens starting Friday for the first time in nearly a year.
“The room will be black – you won’t be on your phone!” Kajillionaire director Miranda July was amazed at a video testimonial. This is a big change from the home viewing environment during Covid-19.
A mainstay of Greenwich Village that took over the abandoned Waverly Theater in 2005, IFC is one of a select number of New York art houses to reopen today. The economy is daunting. Due to state coronavirus restrictions that limit attendance to 25%, theaters can expect no more than a few dozen ticket buyers per show early on. Even on such a modest scale, the market is being closely watched by the movie business, which posted $ 14.1 million in sales with Tom & Jerry last weekend, despite streamed on HBO Max.
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After interviewing its members, IFC decided to reassure customers (based on their feedback) by requiring masks from everyone on the premises and pausing food and drinks at all times. Even without this crucial source of income, IFC GM John Vanco felt it was crucial to reconnect with the audience after a year of isolation.
“People asked me if I was thinking of waiting for the opening,” he told . in an interview. “And I said, ‘No. Partially open is bad compared to fully open. ‘It was a no-brainer for us to want to do this. “For a stretch last summer when it looked like a sharp drop in coronavirus infection would allow city theaters to clear the state’s reopening, Vanco said its staff had coordinated the preparations. The theater joined the CinemaSafe program, an initiative of the National Association of Theater Owners, and follows its safety protocols from ventilation to cleaning.
Several established locations in New York have decided to wait in the hopes that coronavirus restrictions will continue to ease and allow at least 50% participation. The film forum has set April 2nd for its reopening. Others, like the Metrograph on the Lower East Side and Uptowns Film in Lincoln Center, which runs the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center and its own repertoire house, haven’t set a date.
In addition to the reopening of the IFC, the Angelika Film Center and its company siblings, the Village East and Cinema 1, 2, 3 are located in Turtle Bay. Landmark’s The Quad, a short walk from the IFC center, is also back in operation. It plays My Zoe, Night of Kings, The Coming World, and Supernova, and has a limited food and drink menu.
Royal New York City venues remain closed
Jill Goldsmith / .
The film scene in Lower Manhattan, a stronghold of the cinema for decades, looks very different from a typical weekend six weeks before the Academy Awards. In contrast to mainstream rival AMC, Regal Cinemas has decided not to reopen for the time being. This kills the competition from the circuit’s Megaplex Union Square, a prime platform publishing venue (think of films like Uncut Gems over time).
Don’t expect to hear too many cash register numbers from specialty retailers. Many companies – including Disney-operated Searchlight, which owns one of the best-known specialty titles of the year in Nomadland – have no plans to report New York City earnings. (Angelika, Village East and Cinema 1, 2, 3 play Nomadland and A24s Minari.) The usual goal of reporting revenue per theater, even if the total is not massive, is to whet an appetite for bookers in the following weeks . With the 25% cap and lots of rooms that could seat maybe 100, some numbers could come up in the hundreds, not thousands, per theater. Still, it’s a starting point.
“As with any other store around the country that reopens, business will slowly start and build,” said Paul Serwitz, COO of Landmark Theaters. “In a market as unique as New York City, people are arguably connected on a higher level than in most other cities. With the ease of getting around the city, it will slowly come to a reasonable level of business. “
In addition to the restrictions on ticket sales, the theaters had to bear high costs to equip the theaters for a Covid operating environment. “Things like HVAC systems or PPE – these are essentially sunk costs, and that is a major obstacle for a specialty company like ours,” said one exhibitor. “To do that and then open with such limited capacity, it’s just not feasible.”
Even before the pandemic, rising rents and a shift in talent and films towards streaming services put theaters under pressure. In 2018 and 2019, New York lost Lincoln Plaza and Landmark’s Sunshine, two major specialties. Landmark also closed its location on 57th Street on the Far West Side last summer. CineMex Holdings USA filed for bankruptcy last year and eventually reopened some locations, but left the newly renovated CMX CineBistro on the Upper East Side dark. Alamo Drafthouse, whose downtown Brooklyn location has been thriving since 2016, submitted Chapter 11 this week, unsettling the habituation and distribution of Arthouse.
Compared to the feat of reopening, releasing windows – a controversial topic in the C-suite and on Wall Street – isn’t quite as annoying for some art houses. Vanco notes that IFC never had a problem booking films that were available at the same time as VOD or streaming. Sister company IFC Films was an early pioneer of daily releases.
A four-week series at the IFC Center with the daring title “What’d We Miss?” will give time to two dozen works whose big-screen fame was interrupted by the pandemic. This is a tempting idea for those who have had to catch Bacurau, Sound of Metal, or Ammonite at home. Vancouver’s bet is that ticket buyers will show up regardless of the windows. It wouldn’t be the first time the location attracts customers looking for a comprehensive experience. In The Waverly, the predecessor of the IFC, the Rocky Horror Picture Show was shown for the first time. “I don’t want these to have a pandemic asterisk next to their name indicating that they didn’t act in New York and weren’t part of New York movie culture,” Vanco explained.
Netflix will also have a significant presence at the IFC marquee, with the New York box office premieres of Da 5 Bloods, Mank, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and The Trial of the Chicago 7. The streaming giant signed a lease to operate the in late 2019 Parisian theater on 58th Street. The 71-year-old palace with a screen next to the Plaza Hotel reopens on March 19 and plays a mix of the company’s award titles.
The film academy enables films to qualify for Oscars this year even without a movie. That fact and the shutdowns of trips, theaters, and festivals have resulted in an unprecedented awards season, but the resurgence of New York art houses brings an air of the familiar with it. The IFC’s annual booking of Oscar-nominated short films will open on April 2nd. In addition to new films such as My Salinger Year and The Vigil, this week’s bill includes Netflix titles as well as La Llorona, a candidate for the best foreign language film.
As the weather warms up, a number of specialty films will be shown outdoors, a newly relevant, if not aesthetically ideal, setting. The film at Lincoln Center is among the participants in Restart Stages, an initiative that, starting next month, aims to reconnect arts organizations with audiences and take security measures. State guidelines allow up to 400 people in Damrosch Park, a corner of the Lincoln Center campus known to previous participants in Fashion Week, the TV Upfront or the Mostly Mozart Music Festival.
The Queens Drive-In also opens its spring season today with a screening of Coming 2 America. Programmers from the Museum of the Moving Image and Rooftop Films have put together a selection of repertoire titles, but are also planning to mix up newer dishes. Then comes the Tribeca Film Festival, which is slated for June this year.
Serwitz von Landmark emphasizes that the action in New York and elsewhere should not be viewed as a return to normal. “Everything will change when it comes to specialty films and distribution and how they work across the country,” he said.
Anthony D’Alessandro contributed to this report.