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LI movie theaters remain open, but scaling back audience capacity

Guy Pearce, left, and Vin Diesel star in

Guy Pearce, left, and Vin Diesel star in Columbia Pictures' "Bloodshot." Credit: Sony Pictures / Graham Bartholomew

If you’re among the few people considering going to the movies during the coronavirus pandemic, your options may become limited.

Not only are there few new movies to see, there soon may be fewer theaters playing them.

This weekend’s major releases, which include the Vin Diesel vehicle “Bloodshot” and the horror-satire “The Hunt,” are the last new movies studios will release for some time. Studios have postponed their major releases until April at the earliest. With New York State in an official state of emergency and health officials urging people to stay away from indoor public gatherings, it’s questionable how long movie theaters can afford to stay open.

“The distributors are pulling back all their product,” Phil Solomon, owner of the PJ Cinemas in Port Jefferson, said as he mulled the possibility of a temporary closure. “We’re like a hamburger store that has no hamburgers to sell.”

For now, the major theater chains with locations on Long Island are showing no signs of shutting their doors. Showcase Cinemas, Regal and AMC Theatres are limiting auditorium capacity to 50%. Showcase said it is cleaning public spaces with increased frequency and instructing staff to wear vinyl gloves when busing tables or cleaning theaters. Regal Cinemas said in a statement that it is “[e]mphasizing frequent and proper hand washing” and “cleaning high contact points more frequently.”

Anne Stampfel, who co-owns the Bellmore Movies and the Malverne Cinema and Art Center with her husband, Henry, said they are keeping their theaters as clean as possible. Still, she said, “We’re lucky if we get 10 people.” Factor in the costs of electricity, heat and staff, she said, and keeping the theater open may not be an option.

“This is unprecedented,” said Stampfel. “We’re taking it day by day.”

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