Regal Cinemas landlord sues state over movie theater closure

Regal Cinemas at Quaker Crossing

Orchard Park, NY (WBEN) - Not long after more than 1,500 gym and fitness center owners filed a class action lawsuit against the State of New York for not allowing them to reopen, the state released guidelines allowing for that to happen. Now, it appears that some involved in the movie theater business are hoping the same thing will work for them.

Gerry Buchheit, who owns the Quaker Crossing Retail Center in Orchard Park that includes a Regal Cinema, is filing a lawsuit against the Governor, Attorney General, Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, and the state in order to reopen movie theaters.

"We had to take action to do something," Buchheit told WBEN. "We've contacted the Governor's office a number of times trying to explain how we can protect people from the Coronavirus... They just don't want to open the theaters."

In the 38-page Complaint, Buchheit’s attorney says the Governor's closure of movie theaters is neither fair nor reasonable and violates the first amendment right of freedom of speech.

While Buchheit doesn't directly own the theater, the Regal Cinema in Orchard Park hasn’t paid Quaker Crossing its monthly rent since March. Buchheit told WBEN the total amount owed to him at this point is $1.3 Million.

"We feel that we are much safer, much cleaner, and much easier to regulate than a casino, gymnasium, or things like that, and we're being approached with deaf ears," Buchheit said.

Do doctors believe it can be safe to open movie theaters?

"I do," said Dr. Tom Russo, Chief of Infectious disease at the Jacobs School of Medicine. "The wild card with movie theaters is the food and drink situation, and of course in a given venue ensuring the ventilation is optimal."

"I don't see movie theaters as being that different from a number of other venues that are presently open. You could perhaps compare it to indoor dining," Dr. Russo said.

New York is currently the only state where movie theaters are not either open, or have guidance as to when that can happen.