At around 9:45 am on Friday morning, the strange metal glare that filmgoers had shut out of the Angelica Film Center on Houston Street for nearly a year rolled along with a lurch. The gleaming glass box office was there with a smiling attendant. Behind him spread the theater, his retro light bulbs rose again.
Merlin Evans, 73, who said she lived nearby, climbed the short flight of stairs and stopped before walking inside.
“In the end!” he said. “I have five tickets in the next four days. How much I missed it. “
On Friday and on weekends, film lovers such as Evans return with whistles, the surround sound atmosphere and concessions prevent the smell of poppy popcorn from enjoying movies on the big screen around New York City for the first time in nearly a year. .
They wore masks and separated the rows. Many people, like Ms. Evans, were vaccinated. And everywhere there were reminders of the epidemic: disinfected wipe cubs near the door, New on-screen announcements about safe viewing, Rope lines, prevent access to an empty lobby.
But when the lights were lowered and the cellphone was slowly switched off, they ran into amusing entertainment, at least briefly, freeing them from distracting or worrying.
“There’s something special about watching a movie in a theater,” said Christina Davis of Brooklyn, who came to watch a 2009 British political satire – a favorite – at the IFC Center in Greenwich Village. “In the loop“
“It’s not like you can multitask when you’re in the theater. You really need to pay attention to what is being presented. And it really is a joy not often given in modern life, ”said Ms. Davis. A schoolgirl who has been vaccinated said that when she has a projector and surround-sound system at home, her cats, text messages and emails are constantly distracted.
He said that he was happy to share the film in the theater, though there was only one person in the audience.
“You’re laughing and you hear someone else laughing, and it’s not someone you know,” she said. “It’s an experience you’re having with a random stranger.”
Nevertheless, as the standing hand sanitizer dispensers and temperature probes make abundantly clear, the epidemic is far from over. While there have been movie theaters in some parts of the state Operating within limits Since the end of October, New York City, one of the nation’s largest – and most dense – film markets, has not received that green light. Transition to new york state Rising at one of the highest rates in the country – about 37 new cases per 100,000 people in the past week. And New York City is adding cases at a per capita rate that is even higher.
At the end of last month, the government called Andrew M. Cleared the way for cuomo Movie theaters in New York City to open this weekend Bringing theaters to the five boroughs to the rest of the state, with limited capacity and other restrictions. However some city theater owners did the math and Decided it would be best to stay dark, To The movie theater industry is pummeled by the epidemic, And many struggling companies Seized the opportunity Resell tickets
The concerns are not completely eliminated. Some movie house patrons said that on Friday they had deliberately chosen early facilities, in the hope that they would attend to allow significant social distance. Many people said that they do not find it less dangerous to go to the movies than the metro or to eat in a restaurant.
“When we’re gone, it’s always safer – safer than in Upper West Side grocery stores,” said Steven Brinberg, an actor from that neighborhood who said he worked in New Jersey, Connecticut and other parts of New York State I had traveled to watch movies. in recent months.
“It’s a total discount, and it’s the art form that’s still the cheapest,” said Mr. Brinberg, who went to the IFC Center to buy a ticket to the Sunday show.My anniversary year“” Movies are people’s entertainment. “
In fact, the weekend represented a short milestone expected to be a long and uneven recovery. The reopening of the neighborhood movie theater is, for some, a baby step toward the day the city can open safely and fully.
“It was nice to be back,” said 68-year-old Nellie Zambrano of the Bronx, who brought her two daughters to see.Raya and the last dragon“At AMC Lincoln Square 13. “I’m looking forward to it because it makes me hope that things are coming back, becoming a little normal.”
43-year-old Rondal Budram considered it important to resume the family tradition of watching the film at the 14-screen Lyndon Boulevard Multiplex Cinema in Brooklyn (also seen by his family “Raya and the last dragon”) And then grabbing a meal nearby. He, his wife and their three children have been coming to the theater from their home in Queens for years.
12-year-old Tamaya Gaines, who came to see “Tom and Jerry” with her family at Lyndon Boulevard, said, “I’m not saying it’s not fun at home, but to see it on the big screen – it’s Like you’re in a movie. “
But despite the anticipation, this weekend was far from the Star Wars premiere. At the Lyndon Boulevard multiplex on Saturday afternoon, about two dozen cars were parked in a lot with hundreds of spaces. Around the same time in Manhattan at the IFC Center, no one bought a ticket for nearly an hour at the window.
Even without major foot traffic, however, there were subtle signs across the city that movie theaters had rekindled from their enforced slumber.
At AMC 84th Street on the Upper West Side, a poster advertising a longtime “Mulan” – a film that was scheduled to release last March and streamed in the fall – was finally removed. Given and replaced. In Times Square, the red flag outside the AMC Empire 25 marked the venue “Now Open!” Even across the street at the Regal Cinema the ticker displayed the message “temporarily closed”.
52-year-old Frank Minerva, a self-described “super movie fan”, was among those who saw the posters only after Angelica was seen in the poster. He stopped taking a selfie in front of a “minaret” poster before entering the theater to watch the film.
“The loss of films was a big deal for me,” said Minerva. He said it was actually 357 days since the last time he saw a film in a cinema hall and every single one of those days was “terrible”.
“Why can I pay $ 20 to watch a movie at my house when I can pay $ 20 to watch it from the comfort of the theater?” They said. “The experience of watching it in a theater is how the actors, the filmmakers, make you want to see the film.”
Film student Shane Singh, 23, was keen to see “Tenit” on something other than his laptop, so he visited AMC Empire 25 in Midtown on Friday. “Maybe I notice something I haven’t done before,” he said.
As he opened the door to go to the theater, an icy wind blew from 42nd Street. An usher called out to Mr. Singh as soon as he came in – and his voice reverberated through the door, straying from the past in anyone’s heart. City: “Welcome back!”