Major movie theater chains are taking the New Jersey to court over the state’s continued closure of their businesses. In a legal complaint submitted Monday night and led by the National Association of Theatre Owners of New Jersey, industry leaders AMC Theaters, Regal Cinemas, and Cinemark claimed that it was unconstitutional for Gov. Phil Murphy to keep movie houses closed while allowing certain other businesses to open.
“By this Complaint, Plaintiffs challenge Defendants’ unconstitutional and unlawful distinctions in allowing certain places of public assembly to reopen, while requiring movie theatres to remain closed,” the complaint reads. “COVID-19 represents a serious public health risk, and Plaintiffs support fair and reasonable actions by the government to address that risk. However, the government-mandated total closure of movie theatres is neither fair nor reasonable, and is instead a violation of Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights…”
New Jersey is currently in Phase 2 of its reopening strategy and is now allowing the likes of shopping malls, retail outlets, and churches to resume operations. The complaint takes issue with this, as well as the lack of a time frame for when the state will enter Phase 3, which will allow movie theaters to reopen.
The theater giants are seeking to prevent New Jersey from treating movie theaters differently from other businesses which they claim are similar. The complaint went so far as to suggest that movie theaters are better situated for safe reopening than churches and claims that representatives from each side have met to go over their safety protocols.
While not among the states currently grappling with a resurgence of COVID-19, New Jersey has moved to slow down the pace of its reopening schedule in response to the rise in cases elsewhere. Recently, Gov. Murphy scrapped plans to allow for indoor dining at restaurants indefinitely.
The film business has, similarly to other leisure industries, been heavily impacted by coronavirus lockdowns, with numerous major releases getting delayed indefinitely or moving to streaming platforms. While the major chains are now fighting in court for the right to reopen, doubt remains for major film releases like “Tenet” and “Mulan,” which continue to delay their release dates.
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