State Watch

Theater companies in Texas say they won’t be opening this week despite governor lifting restrictions

A number of theater companies that operate in Texas say they do not plan to open their doors this weekend, even as Gov. Greg Abbot (R) begins to lift restrictions on movie theaters and other businesses as part of a phased reopening plan.

Abbot said this week that the state would begin lifting restrictions that were temporarily enacted on certain business as part of a stay-at-home order issued in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The order is scheduled to expire at the end of the month. 

As part of the first phase of the reopening plan, retailers, restaurants, movie theaters and malls would be able to open again with occupancy limited to 25 percent capacity as officials work to find ways to boost the economy at federal and state levels while still curbing the spread of COVID-19.

However, Alamo Drafthouse, a theater company founded in Austin that has nearly 40 locations across the country, announced on Twitter Monday that it will not be opening its theaters this weekend.

“We will not be opening our Texas theaters this weekend,” the company said. “Opening safely is a very complex project that involves countless new procedures and equipment, all of which require extensive training. This is something we cannot and will not do casually or quickly.

“But know this – when we do open, we will be providing the safest possible experience for both our staff and our guests, and we can’t wait to see you all again,” the company added.

The Austin Film Society’s (AFS) theater, AFS Cinema, which is the only non-profit arthouse theater in the city, told The Austin Chronicle that it will also remain closed.

Rebecca Campbell, CEO of AFS, told the paper that “AFS Cinema will remain closed until further notice as we do our part to prevent the spread of this deadly virus.”

She also said that the group was “shocked at the decision of the governor to declare it safe to open movie theaters, even at 25 percent capacity.”

“The fractured federal response to COVID-19 left cities and local governments grappling with limited information and resources as the virus rapidly spread right under our noses,” she said. “Texas is the state with the fewest number of tests issued per capita, Travis County COVID-19 cases are on the rise, and experts from around the world are warning about the dangers of reopening too early.” 

A spokesperson for Cinemark, the country’s third biggest movie theater chain, told Deadline it is still “working toward a mid-summer opening date, contingent upon health and safety regulations, as well as availability of studio content.”

“The first release currently scheduled is Christopher Nolan’s ‘Tenet’ set for July 17,” the spokesperson continued. “It is important to note that the theatrical exhibition’s return to ‘normalcy’ may span multiple months, driven by staggered theatre openings due to government limits, reduced operating hours, lingering social distancing and a ramp up of consumer comfort with public gatherings.”

AMC Theaters, the biggest movie theater chain in the world, also told the publication in a statement on Monday that it is still planning its reopening, and added it would need a “line of sight into a regular schedule of new theatrical blockbusters that get people truly excited about returning to their favorite movie theaters” before it is able to resume business.

“Those blockbusters are scheduled to return this summer, beginning with Warner Brothers’ ‘Tenet’ and Disney’s ‘Mulan,’ with many more major titles scheduled immediately thereafter,” the company said. “While we expect to open our theaters in the weeks ahead of these new blockbusters, utilizing creative programming of immensely popular previously released films, we would be wise to do so only directly in advance of the release of major new movie titles.” 

The report comes as a list of Hollywood studios have either postponed films that were scheduled to be released amid the pandemic to later dates or released pictures to streaming platforms earlier than expected as theaters across the nation have shuttered temporarily in response to the outbreak.

A similar situation has also been playing out in Georgia, where movie theater companies have said they still plan to stay closed despite Gov. Brian Kemp (R) lifting restrictions on movie theaters in the state.

Tags AMC Theatres Cinemark Theatres Coronavirus Theatres

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