Movie theater ban ends Friday but Oswego film fans will have to wait

The doors of Oswego Cinema 7, seen above, have been locked to the public since a March 17 order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo closing all theaters across the state. The COVID-19 restrictions are being partially lifted Friday, but Port City cinephiles will have to wait at least another week.

OSWEGO — New York movie theaters are allowed to open for business Friday, but a local cinema official says screens will stay dark in downtown Oswego for another week.

This Friday, Oct. 23, will see the execution of an order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Oct. 18 to open theaters. Movie theaters outside of New York City will be allowed to re-open at 25 percent capacity with a maximum 50 people per screen, according to the governor.

Oswego Cinema 7, located at 138 W. 2nd St., closed March 17 when nearly all entertainment businesses in New York ceased operation in response to COVID-19. Theaters were set to be the part of the fourth and final phase of re-opening initiated by Cuomo in May, but have remained closed since.

Port City film buffs will have to wait a little longer, theater owner Conrad Zurich on Tuesday told The Palladium-Times.

“I don’t have enough first-run films to open this Friday, so we’re pushing it back a week,” Zurich said.

The main issue is a logjam of films issued by studios due to the pandemic.

Fayetteville-based Zurich Cinemas own and operate 11 theaters in the northeast. They operate Oswego Cinema 7 as well as 9 theaters in New York and one in Connecticut.

“The film companies have been moving a lot of their product back three months, six months, nine months, and unfortunately selling some of their product to other sources,” Zurich said.

Theaters planning on re-opening, like Oswego Cinema 7, must follow certain protocols mandated by state health officials. Some restrictions include limiting the number of people in the theaters and requiring assigned seating. Masks will be mandatory for anyone attending theaters and locations will be “subject to rigorous state guidance and enforcement,” according to Cuomo.

Counties opening theaters must have a less than 2 percent infection rate across the last 14 days and the theaters must have an enhanced air filtration system in accordance with New York state standards. Counties still unauthorized to open theaters include  Allegany, Broome, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, Cortland, Greene, Orange, Rockland, Schuyler, Steuben and Tioga.

Zurich said his theater had made “enhancements to our system to meet the requirements.”

 “We've always tried to bring in the latest innovations to the theater,” Zurich said.

The company pledged to follow state protocols when they do open, and theater employees will be available to assist guests into theaters and assigned seats.

“Hopefully when health conditions improve, restrictions will be partially or entirely lifted.” Zurich said.

Before the COVID restrictions were in place, the theater’s maximum capacity was 232 people per showing, according to Zurich. Now, the theaters are capped at 50 people in the five operating theaters — if he can get enough celluloid to show.

“We're going to space people out so there is a minimum of six-foot clearance for every group,” Zurich said, “We will have sufficient spacing between the groups so that we will not have problems.”

Oswego Cinema 7 recently finished work on its marquee and exterior using funding from the city’s Downtown Improvement Fund, a part of the city's Downtown Revitalization Initiative. Roughly $80,000 was granted to the cinema in August and was partially used to hire local firm Minetto Painting, and also used to add plants to the front of the building.

For more information, contact the theater (315)-343-0970.

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