Coronavirus closures push these movie theaters to sue NJ

Theater companies compare their situation to that of churches

Movie theater companies including AMC, Cinemark and Regal Cinemas are suing New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy after the state told movie theatres to remain closed because of coronavirus.

"COVID-19 represents a serious public health risk, and Plaintiffs support fair and reasonable actions by the government to address that risk," the theaters said in a complaint filed Monday. "However, the government-mandated total closure of movie theatres is neither fair nor reasonable, and is instead a violation of Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and freedom of expression, Equal Protection of the laws, Due Process under the law, and is a Taking of property without just compensation.”

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A spokesperson for Murphy said the governor's office does not comment on pending litigation.

Moviegoers exit a Cinemark movie theater in the Playa Vista neighborhood of Los Angeles on Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017. (Christopher Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The National Association of Theatre Owners, which represents businesses in all 50 states, is also a plaintiff in the suit asking a judge to at least temporarily stay Murphy's order. The plaintiffs say they've lost income and had to lay off employees because of coronavirus restrictions in place since March.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
AMC AMC ENTERTAINMENT HOLDINGS INC 36.05 -0.78 -2.12%
CNK CINEMARK HOLDINGS, INC. 19.94 -0.25 -1.24%
CNNWF CINEWORLD GROUP PLC 0.85 +0.01 +1.78%

The companies compare their situation to that of churches, which have been allowed to meet in person with safety rules in place.

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New Jersey has reported more than 173,000 coronavirus cases and 13,425 deaths.

New Jersey restaurant owners have also criticized Murphy for delaying reopening indoor dining. Outdoor dining has been allowed in New Jersey since the state entered Phase Two on June 15.

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"The virus outside is a lot less lethal than it is inside," New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy told "Meet the Press" on Sunday. "We need direct federal cash assistance to states so that we can help those restaurants and small businesses out. The choice is either reopen inside or based on the data we saw ... or we lose people."

"When you combine indoors, lack of ventilation, sedentary, close proximity and by definition you have to take your mask off to eat, those are bad facts," Murphy said.

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