A person walks past Broadway posters near Times Square as theaters remain closed due to restrictions imposed in New York City on January 15, 2021 to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Cindy Ord | Getty Images

New York plans to use extensive coronavirus testing to reopen its difficult entertainment options, which have been closed for months during the pandemic, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday.

The coronavirus has crippled the live theater industry, particularly at its central hub, Broadway, which has been closed since March.

Individuals who owned tickets by May 30th were advised to contact the seller in October for refunds or exchanges. Therefore, according to previous predictions by the Broadway League, a trade organization that represents producers and theater owners, theaters were unlikely to reopen before that date.

However, Cuomo said there was hope that New York could allow Broadway, among other entertainment options, to reopen with some restrictions, although it could not immediately provide a schedule for their return.

The state would likely set an audience size limit, require everyone to take a negative Covid-19 test before entering, and require proper ventilation systems in theaters, the governor said.

“Would I go to a play and sit in a playhouse with 150 people? If the 150 people tested and they were all negative, I would,” Cuomo said during a press conference. “I think reopening with testing will be key.”

Much of the state’s plan depends on a pilot program that ran in January that allowed nearly 7,000 football fans to attend the Buffalo Bills’ home game as long as they presented a negative Covid-19 test.

The governor had already announced in late January that New York will allow some wedding ceremony venues to reopen on March 15 with limited capacity. Attendees can hold a wedding if all attendees are tested prior to the event and organizers get approval from their local health department in advance, he said.

“Opening locations with testing is something New York wants to lead the way,” Cuomo said Monday.

New York’s first steps to reopen its beleaguered entertainment industry will begin on February 20th with the launch of a new “NY PopsUp” initiative. The program will organize more than 300 pop-up performances over 100 days that can be viewed for free, although their locations will not be announced in advance to prevent overcrowding, Cuomo said.

The initiative will include some big names including Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin, Chris Rock, Billy Porter, Sarah Jessica Parker, Patti Smith and Mandy Patinkin, Cuomo said.

The summer events will lead to the 20th anniversary of the Tribeca Film Festival in June, Cuomo said. The governor said the program will begin with the impromptu performances and will hopefully “migrate” to the opening of some indoor entertainment venues.

“New York is leading, and we’re going to bring the arts back because we’re at a time when the future, my friends, is what we make of it,” said Cuomo.