New Jersey permitted to reopen theaters Friday, but few may be able to do so by the holiday weekend

A movie theater marquee in Cranford, New Jersey.

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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday gave permission to movie theaters in the state to reopen at a limited capacity on Friday.

In order to reopen, theaters must require masks, implement social distancing guidelines when it comes to seating and can only operate at 25% capacity, but only up to 150 people.

Patrons that purchase tickets together may be seated next to each other, but separate groups must be separated by at least six feet.

New Jersey was one of only four states that had not reopened movie theaters to the public. California, New York and North Carolina, which have just under 1,000 cinemas collectively, or about 18% of the total movie theaters in the U.S., will not be open this weekend.

In fact, last weekend just shy of 50% of all U.S. theaters were open, according to data from Comscore.

Murphy’s announcement will permit nearly 100 movie theaters in New Jersey to reopen ahead of Labor Day weekend, when the much-anticipated Christopher Nolan movie “Tenet” will debut in the U.S. However, few theaters may be able to do so on such short notice.

Back in May, when movie theater owners were first mapping out their strategies for reopening, many said that they would need a little over a week in order to rehire staff and train them in new coronavirus procedures before being able to reopen. That timeline would also allow the theaters to get their facilities up and running and prepared for moviegoers. 

With Murphy’s announcement happening on Monday, that gives theater owners less than four days to hire, train and prepare their locations for customers. 

Representatives for Cinemark, Regal and AMC were not immediately available to comment.

Murphy’s order also allowed for the resumption of indoor dining, with a number of restrictions, including a 25% capacity cap and social distancing between tables. Although New York City still bans indoor dining, the rest of New York state has allowed customers to dine in for quite a while. 

This past weekend, superhero thriller “The New Mutants” generated $7 million in sales over the weekend, marking the biggst debut since the pandemic closed theaters in mid-March. 

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