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Hollywood’s Covid Reopening: LA Movie Theaters, California Theme Parks

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As coronavirus cases continue to decline across the U.S. and President Joe Biden vows that the nation is on track to have enough vaccine supply “for every adult in America by the end of May,” Hollywood is inching closer to reopening.

Entertainment is among the industries most crippled by the pandemic. Nationwide lockdowns forced the shutdowns of television and film productions, delayed movie premieres, shifted release strategies and closed movie theaters.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Wednesday that movie theaters in Los Angeles County would be able to reopen at 25% capacity (or 100 people, whichever is fewer) as soon as Saturday. Given the short notice, it’s unclear what theaters will actually open their doors this weekend.

Los Angeles and Orange counties are on track to advance to the less-restrictive red tier as soon as Friday, when the state is expected to have administered 2 million COVID-19 vaccines in underserved communities. As of Wednesday, the state had dispensed 1.9 million doses. In addition to the 2 million mark, the average rate of daily new COVID-19 infections in each county needs to reach 10 per 100,000 residents for two consecutive weeks. Los Angeles County’s new case rate is currently 5.2 per 100,000 residents, while Orange County’s is six per 100,000.

Theaters in New York City, one of the largest movie markets in the country, opened at reduced capacity on March 5 for the first time in nearly a year. Live indoor performances across New York State will commence on April 2 with the reopening of multiple flexible venues.

California amusement parks can also reopen at limited capacity once counties reach the red tier. In the meantime, Disneyland — which has been closed for nearly a year, costing Disney’s theme park division around $2.6 billion in lost operating income during the most recent quarter, and devastating the economies of Anaheim and Orange County — looks to recuperate by hosting a ticketed, limited-capacity food festival at Disney California Adventure Park from March 18 to April 5. Similarly, Universal Studios Hollywood will open most areas of the park on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, beginning on March 12, for a food and shopping event.

New California guidelines, issued on March 5, allow theme parks and stadiums to reopen as early as April 1. However, Disney CEO Bob Chapek said at the company’s annual shareholder meeting on Tuesday that Disneyland could open its gates again in a matter of weeks.

Variety will be tracking all major reopenings, including movie theaters, performance venues and indoor restaurants, and updating this list as more announcements are made.

Venues and Arenas

Daryl Roth Theatre: “Blindness” will soon be one of the first performances to open in New York City. The Donmar Warehouse production of Nobel Prize winner José Saramago’s dystopian novel, written by Tony Award winner Simon Stephens and directed by Walter Meierjohann, will begin performances on April 2 at the Daryl Roth Theatre.

The Shed: The new nonprofit arts center in Manhattan will launch “An Audience With…,” a five-night indoor performance series from April 2 to April 22. Performances will take place in The Shed’s 18,000-square-foot McCourt space that provides distanced seating for 150 people. The series opens with singer and cellist Kelsey Lu on April 2 and continues with musicians from the New York Philharmonic on April 14 and 15, soprano Renée Fleming on April 21, and comedian Michelle Wolf on April 22.

Restart Stages: Launching on April 7 with a special performance for healthcare workers, Restart Stages is a new outdoor venue with 10 performance spaces that will help kickstart New York City’s performing arts sector. Part of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation-Lincoln Center Agora Initiative, Restart Stages will feature events by organizations from across the five boroughs. Activities, which will be held for free or at a low cost, include an outdoor reading room, civic and community service events, and family programming.

OpenStage NYC: Architecture and design firm Rockwell Group and Tait, which designs and constructs live events, have teamed up to create OpenStage NYC, a new initiative that utilizes portable staging to help arts organizations move to outdoor performances this spring that allow for 50-person, socially distanced audiences. The performance stages will utilize streets, plazas and other public spaces.

NY PopsUp: A new festival of pop-up events, overseen by producers Scott Rudin and Jane Rosenthal, will take place over 100 days throughout New York City and State, serving as a model to re-open flex venues — performance spaces that can be adapted in accordance with social distancing guidelines. Flex venues include The Apollo, Park Avenue Armory, St. Ann’s Warehouse, The Shed, Harlem Stage, La MaMa, National Black Theatre and The Glimmerglass Festival’s Alice Busch Opera Theater. In April, select Broadway theaters, beginning with the Music Box on 45th Street, will open with a series of special NY PopsUp programs. Confirmed festival performers include Hugh Jackman, Amy Schumer, Alec Baldwin, Chris Rock, Matthew Broderick, Sarah Jessica Parker, Mandy Patinkin and Billy Porter.

Movie Theaters

Movie theaters in Los Angeles County can reopen at 25% capacity (or 100 people, whichever is fewer) as soon as Saturday.

Amusement Parks

Disneyland, Disney California Adventure Park and Knott’s Berry Farm are on track to reopen at 15% capacity as early as April 1. Universal Studios Hollywood and Six Flags Magic Mountain can reopen as soon as Los Angeles County moves to the red tier, which could happen on Friday.


The Los Angeles Unified School District and the union reached a tentative agreement that targets a mid-April return for preschool and elementary school children and end of April for middle and high school students.

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