Screenings are currently only filled to 25 percent capacity, and the theater highly encourages purchasing tickets online in advance.
Once a customer reserves their seats, two seats on either side of them are blocked off to allow for adequate social distancing. Additionally, every other row of seating is left completely empty.
Face masks are required at all times within the theater, and visitors must complete a quick temperature check upon arrival. Between screenings, theaters are fully sanitized to prevent the spread of germs.
Despite these many precautions, the Nitehawk has been pleasantly surprised with the results so far. “The feedback has been really positive,” explained an employee at the theater. “People are happy to be back.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has been disastrous for the movie-theater industry, pushing many small independent theaters and major chains (like AMC and Regal) to the brink of bankruptcy.
Brick-and-mortar theaters have also had to contend with the rise of video-on-demand and streaming services, as massive studios like Warner Bros. and Disney continue to release more of their films on this platform.
However, employees at the Nitehawk are undeterred by these additional challenges.
“It’s exciting that people are choosing to come to the theaters with limited capacity,” explained one staff member, “even when they could watch many of these things at home.”
The Nitehawk has another ace in the hole that contributed to its success during the pandemic. The theater’s restaurant and food service has been open with a skeleton staff for multiple months now (New York City restaurants were allowed to open before movie theaters), and has allowed the cinema to continue making money through outdoor dining, takeout, and delivery options.
Restaurant service is available within the theater as well, enabling movie-goers to order food and drinks to their seats through an online menu and contactless service.
The Nitehawk staff is hopeful the theater will be able to expand to 50 percent capacity in the coming months. In the meantime, they are excited to celebrate Oscars season by screening nominated movies for eager, in-person audiences.
The Nitehawk is currently screening four critically acclaimed films: Minari, The Sound of Metal, Nomadland, and Judas and the Black Messiah.