A movie theater operator with locations in Vermont and New York has had more trouble reopening his venues in the Empire State than in the Green Mountains.
The trouble with his New York venues in Red Hook, Roosevelt and New Paltz has to do with the fact that movie theaters have been excluded up until this point from the list of establishments permitted by the governor’s orders to reopen. In Vermont, however, theaters opened in May 12 at 25% capacity and 50% in June.
New York State’s positive cases hit a high point in April when many the number of positive results hit or exceeded 10,000 cases per day. In the subsequent months, New York has both increased testing and seen a dramatic drop in positive cases, which has brought average number of positive cases to around 1%. Vermont saw a peak of positive cases in April (70 positive cases in one day) too but that daily tally has dropped to single digits or the low teens for several months.
Al Bulay had expected during Phase 4 of reopening (which allowed non-essential business like gyms and malls to reopen) that his New York theaters would join his Vermont venues, Bennington Cinemas and Star Theatre in St. Johnsbury, and be able to reopen.
“In good faith, owners prepared safety plans, began training employees in safety procedures and purchased necessary supplies and equipment,” Bulay said.
That good faith effort hasn’t panned out yet, as movie theater remain off the reopening list in New York.
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Does New York warrant a different response than Vermont?
“Back in May, maybe,” Bulay said. “Now, no. Absolutely not.”
To drive home his point, Bulay this week invited a group of politicians and journalists to a screening the 1964 film “Lilies of the Field” at the Red Hook, New York theater that he built almost 30 years ago.
“We’re going to demonstrate a fogger that sprays a quick-drying disinfectant,” Bulay said. “We are going to use it in the auditorium on the seats and in the bathroom. Hopefully to give attention to let people know that when we do reopen, it’s going to be safe.”
Among the invitees listed as attending Bulay’s event was Dutchess County Legislature Chairman Gregg Pulver, but an assistant to the chairman put out a news release saying that Pulver had never agreed to attend.
“I should not have been represented as attending or condoning this circumvention of an Executive Order issued by the Governor as it relates to COVID/public health,” Pulver said in a statement.
He added that the governor should find a way establish a safe path for places like movie theaters to reopen.
In Vermont, Bulay said he requires total safe distancing, masks and gloves worn by staff at all times, and offers sanitizer hand soap
“We are doing everything conceivable to make it as safe as possible,” Bulay said. “I can’t think of a safer place. It’s sure as heck safer than a supermarket, a Walmart, a Home Depot or even a restaurant.”
Ryan Santistevan: [email protected]; 845-437-4809; Twitter: @NewsByRyan_.
Free Press editor Emilie Stigliani contributed to this story.
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