After months of being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Malverne Cinema will be allowed to reopen on Friday, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo announced last Saturday that movie theaters outside New York City would be allowed to reopen at 25 percent capacity, up to a maximum of 50 people per screen. He specified that this would apply to areas that have infection rates below 2 percent on a 14-day average and have no cluster zones.
“We’re hitting the ground running here,” said Anne Stampfel, who owns Malverne Cinema with her husband, Henry. “We’ve done everything possible to make this reopening a possibility. I don’t know too many theaters on Long Island that can survive as long as we have.”
Cuomo’s announcement came a day after the state conducted nearly 160,000 Covid tests in one day, a new record. “When you’re doing that level of tests, you get down to the block level,” Cuomo said in a news release. “And then, when you start to see a cluster, you oversample in that cluster, so you get even more data.”
Malverne Cinema has been in operation since 1947, and the Stampfels have owned it for almost 30 years. The theater has earned a reputation in Nassau County as the place to go to see upscale commercial, independent and foreign films. One of the highlights of its reopening will be a discounted screening of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which was the first film shown there.
“I guess that’s a way for us to celebrate our rebirth in Malverne,” Stampfel said. “We know that things will never be quite normal again, but we’re doing the best we can to welcome people back into our theaters.”
The Stampfels, who own two other movie theaters in Nassau County — Bellmore Movies and North Shore Towers in Floral Park — have had only 75 active movie days this year. They were disappointed not to be included in Phase 4 of Cuomo’s reopening schedule, Henry said, but they are eager to get back to work.
“The protocols have all been in place for weeks now,” Henry said. “Our main focus is getting the regular part of the theater up and operating, and bringing in new employees, since some of them were forced to find other jobs.”
Representatives of the New York chapter of the National Association of Theatre Owners held a news conference at Malverne Cinema in August, at which the organization issued a set of health and safety guidelines called Cinema Safe, which many movie theaters have signed on to. “It’s towns like this that need their movie theater,” Joseph Masher, president of the association’s New York chapter, said at the time.
Henry Stampfel said his theaters would have no problem operating at 25 percent capacity while meeting social-distancing guidelines. He had the buildings sanitized by a professional cleaning crew, and purchased masks and face shields for employees. Additional plans for the theaters include closing off every other row, staggering show times, daily temperature checks of employees, training them on new safety precautions and installing new air flow systems. The Stampfels also created a new position called theater checker, an employee who will make sure audience members are socially distanced before the start of each screening.
“We want the public to know how much work we’ve put in to make them feel safe to come back,” Anne said. “If everybody continues to follow the rules, we should be fine.”