Long Island’s Phase 4 reopening came and went Wednesday without a movie ticket torn or any dusty free weights lifted in still-shuttered gyms.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo last month removed cinemas and fitness centers from Phase 4 of New York's reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic without setting a timeline for when those businesses can resume. But even if they were able to welcome gym users and moviegoers, the question remains:
Will Long Islanders feel comfortable returning to indoor venues and gatherings?
In 2019, there were 254 private-sector fitness and recreational sports centers in Nassau County and 249 in Suffolk County employing nearly 8,000 people, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. There were 19 movie theaters in Nassau County and 21 in Suffolk last year, with a workforce of more than 1,000 people, according to the data.
The fitness industry is at a tipping point, International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association president Joe Moore said in a July 7 letter to congressional leaders. The trade group estimates that about one-third of gymgoers will permanently opt to work out at home and that without federal assistance, 10,000 U.S. fitness clubs could go out of business in the next six months.
“Gyms and health clubs were among the first industries targeted for shutdowns as a result of the pandemic,” Moore said in a news release. “Many clubs have been shuttered for months. Unlike our friends in the restaurant industry, gyms and health clubs haven’t been able to offer ‘takeout’ as a means to stay afloat during this difficult time.”
As for movie theaters, many chains have chosen not to reopen even in locations where they can because studios have pushed back release dates, said Eric Wold, a senior analyst with financial services firm B. Riley FBR Inc., based in Arlington, Virginia.
But it doesn’t seem the comfort and ease of lockdown TV bingeing will be the big screen’s downfall.
Wold said the industry will likely see a rebound, although some smaller and independent theaters could close. Studios may adapt and create more content directly for streaming, he said, but likely won’t entirely abandon theatrical releases.
“Fox is not going to release the next four Avatar movies directly to home,” Wold said. “You need theaters to generate that buzz. You really can’t get that from streaming.”
Long Islanders told Newsday where they stand on going back, or not:
Lori Shorin, 55, Muttontown
“I won’t be rushing to go to either. It’s an enclosed environment. At a gym, there’s a lot of heavy breathing. Instead I’ve been running on nature trails. I had given up my gym membership before [the pandemic] because I always felt like the air didn’t circulate well and it made me feel not confident in the gym in general.”
Brandon Ronald, 33, Bethpage
“Absolutely not. It’s not safe. [In the meantime] I’m watching movies at home and we run and bike.”
Tom Breslin, 69, Oyster Bay
“I haven’t even gotten a haircut, so I do think confined spaces are an issue. It’s going to be a long time [before he feels comfortable in confined spaces]. I do stay active. I park as far away as I can. That keeps me a little bit isolated.”
Guy Fernando, 17, Brookville
“Yes. I feel like I haven’t been getting much activity during the pandemic. I didn’t work out until the pandemic started. I made some gains and now I’m really antsy to go to the gym. And I miss being at the movies and seeing them as they come out.”
Gagandeep Singh, 43, Hicksville
“The gym? Definitely. Everybody gained weight [in quarantine]. Movies I don’t recommend. We have Netflix, we have [Amazon] Prime. The most important thing is your health. You can stay home and watch a movie. I don’t want to take a chance.”
Evelyn Edwards, 74, Bellmore
“No. It’s too early with all the rising [numbers of cases in other states] that’s going on, we need to pay attention and consider ourselves and the health care workers. Being a nurse and seeing we have lost so many, we need to be more compassionate and careful.”
Gerry Girard, 69, Middle Island
“I think it’ll be a while before I go back to the movies. I used to go once a week. They bring you to a dream world. I’ll feel safe when there’s a cure.”
Linda Evangelista, 60, Hampton Bays
“No. I don’t think it’s worth the jeopardy you put yourself in. To go to the gym, I’d probably need a private room to feel safe. The same for the movies. I bought a big-screen [television] right before [the pandemic] so it’s worked out well.”
Kimberly Hope, 27, Riverhead
“I wouldn’t. I just don’t feel like we’re in the clear for the simple reason I feel like everybody thinks we’re in the clear. I’m working out at home and ordering movies. We make it fun.”
George Guydish, 74, Manorville
“I don’t go to the gym. I just try to get up in the morning. And they have enough movies on TV that you could never finish them in your lifetime. The last movie I went to was 15 years ago.”
Esther Rizzuto, 70, Mastic Beach
“Yes. I’d go back. Corona[virus] can’t hold me back from everything.”
Ken Rollins, 79, Wading River
“I’d go on a limited basis. I think it’s been a major change in societal habits. I think the socialization of people will be more limited. It may be good for families. I’ve been reading more books and watching Netflix.”