BRADLEY BEACH — Despite being given the green light by Gov. Phil Murphy to restart the silver screen, the Showroom Cinema, located in Bradley Beach, said it will not be able to reopen Friday.
Having been closed since the start of the state’s lockdown in March, the co-owner of the cinema said the current business landscape for small, locally-owned theaters will be a rough one to navigate.
Nancy Sabino, who owns the Showroom Cinema in Bradley Beach and Asbury Park with her business partner Michael Sodano, said the cinema should be open in a few weeks.
“It will be a few weeks, we are not able to open this weekend even though Gov. Murphy gave everyone the go ahead. We have a lot of retrofitting to do to get ready for all of the new rules and regulations that are part of the reopening plan,” she said.
Plexiglass barriers still have to be installed, the building’s ventilation system needs an upgrade and the cinema’s point of sale system will need to be changed to ensure that moviegoers will have a six-foot distance from each other.
Six months of lost income has been difficult, she added, to “the point where we are still not sure if we are going to be able to make a comeback.”
“We could possibly get everything up and running and there is no product, there are no more movies to show, or we can get everything up and running, have some product and have nobody coming back,” she added. “There is no guarantee that just because the movie theater is opening that people will come back to see movies indoors.”
Gov. Murphy announced on Monday that movie theaters were also given the green light to reopen on Friday, Sept. 4. Capacity for reopening is capped at either 25 percent or 150 people, depending on which is fewer per screening. Social distancing is required, unless patrons are in a group, and masks must be worn.
“We are able to take all these steps today because of the hard work that millions of your have done to help keep pushing down our positivity rate and our rate of transmission … to where we are comfortable and confident in taking these steps,” the governor said at a briefing on Monday, adding that even though more restrictions are loosening, New Jerseryans must remain vigilant.
“We know this is a virus of opportunities, so let’s not give it any opportunity.” The National Association of Theatre Owners [NATO], a trade organization that represents 35,000 movie screens in the United States and around the world, issued a statement saying that “The COVID-19 pandemic has put movie theaters across the country at risk of going dark for good.”
Small independent theaters, the group said, employ more than 150,000 in the United States.
In August NATO called on Congress to pass the RESTART [Reviving the Economy Sustainably Towards A Recovery in Twenty-twenty] Act, which would have extended the federal Payroll Protection Program and would have started a new loan program through the Small Business Administration.
“The stark reality is that without the help of a loan program like the RESTART Act, movie theaters and other businesses that are either completely shuttered or face a future of limited capacity and severe uncertainty may not survive the financial impact of the pandemic,” the group said in a statement. “Our members have been left stranded by existing loan programs. While we appreciate the intent behind HEALS Act, the loan programs in the proposal leave out hundreds of thousands of small businesses and mid-sized companies due to employee headcounts and limited eligibility zones.”
In July, the bill was sent to the House of Representatives Committee on Small Business and the Committee on Ways and Means.
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