'Not enough': Movie theater owner says 25% capacity is too little

Loosening COVID restrictions are allowing movie theaters in New York City to reopen this week to limited capacity, but one owner say it's not enough to save his business.

Video Transcript

- We just saw in that story, the debate over our behavior to protect against the virus is still sparking controversy. The director of the CDC today urging states and businesses not to reopen too soon. Tonight, a closer look at movie theaters in our area. Not chains, independent theaters, which can open once again starting Friday but at only 25% capacity, and at that rate, they say they will not survive. Here's Lucy Yang.

LUCY YANG: The Elgart family has been running small neighborhood movie theaters for three successful decades. After almost a year in the dark, they are thrilled they can finally entertain the neighborhood again. But at 25% capacity it's also--

- --sad, because 25% is really not enough.

LUCY YANG: The numbers don't add up.

- My biggest screen has over 220 seats, which means I could put 50 people. My other theaters are about 100 seats which means I'll only be able to 25 people per those screens.

LUCY YANG: He says the reduced ticket sales would not even be enough to heat the theater.

- Staff, there's water, I mean, you name it. You would be running at a loss.

LUCY YANG: So he's trying to think of ways for the show to go on. Since the pandemic, he has opened his theater to P.S. 58 next door. Every day, about three dozen students come here for their virtual classes. Another option, the owners are thinking about offering private showings, where movie lovers can rent out the entire theater for family and friends. But again, only up to 25% capacity.

- I still believe in going to a movie.

LUCY YANG: Andrew says he can't wait to welcome back customers, but he won't be ready by Friday. Perhaps later this month.

- How much are we going to lose? Then we lose tons or do we lose half or do we just close and not lose as much?

LUCY YANG: The grim reality this theater cannot operate at a loss for long. No business can. They are hoping the city will allow for at least 50% capacity soon.