New Yorkers head to Times Square for first ‘movie date night’ amid COVID

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Love — and the smell of popcorn — was back in the air at Times Square Saturday, as couples enjoyed their first “movie date night” in a year.

“It was nice to go on an actual date,” Esther Branch, 27, of Brooklyn, told The Post as she stood in line with her boyfriend, Relva Foster, 25.

“It was long over due,” said Branch, as she waited on 42nd Street outside the AMC Empire 25, where she and her sweetheart of seven years were excited to see the film, “Boogie.”

“It feels like life is starting up again,” she said.

“Getting dressed up, going out. Not just staying home in my PJs. It feels like the beginning of life getting back to normal.”

Movie theaters reopened throughout the city Friday — at 25 percent capacity or a maximum of 50 people per screening — a year after Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all non-essential businesses to shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the process has been slow. Attendance was sparse Saturday at the AMC, the only movie theater in Times Square to reopen for the weekend, and the only chain open for the most part throughout Manhattan.

Still, many lovebirds — along with families and teens — jumped at the chance to watch a film on a big screen.

NYU students Jason Wang, 18, and Diana Wu, 19, leapt literally, jumping into each other’s arms as they walked through the AMC’s doors.

“It’s been so long,” Wang said, laughing.

“We’ve been on dates during the pandemic, but they were picnic dates. It’s not the same as a movie date. I’m a film major and seeing a movie on the big screen — it’s just more romantic.”

Prices for movie tickets were higher than usual at the theater. Kids’ tickets sold for $13.99, and $16.99 for adults.

Still, private theater rentals cost as high as $299 a head when parties of up to 20 people could rent the space to watch a movie together.

“A lot of sellouts. All our private theater rentals were sold out today,” said an AMC employee.

Movie-goers must wear face masks, and seating will be assigned seats with social-distancing in mind.

Some independently owned theaters will remain closed; operators say they weren’t given enough time to prepare and that the 25 percent capacity limit means they still can’t afford to operate.

On April 2, entertainment venues — such as Lincoln Center, Radio City Music Hall and Broadway theaters — will reopen at 33 percent capacity with up to 100 people indoors and up to 200 people outdoors, Cuomo announced Wednesday.

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