The Alamo Drafthouse will not be reopening its doors in Texas just yet. The independent theater chain, which has its headquarters in Austin, was given the go-ahead to resume operations, albeit with hefty restrictions, by Governor Greg Abbott. Movie theaters, along with restaurants and other businesses, will be allowed to open up again starting Friday, but the Drafthouse is holding out for now.
Greg Abbott announced a new phase of plans to reopen the Texas economy following the weeks-long closure in the interest of public health. Part of that plan includes movie theaters, which have been almost entirely shut down in the U.S. since mid-March, save for a few drive-ins here and there. The Alamo Drafthouse closed all locations in mid-March. In a statement released after Abbott made his announcement, the Alamo Drafthouse had this to say.
"We will not be opening our Texas theaters this weekend. 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."
Major chains such as AMC Theatres, Regal and Cinemark have also decided to hold out in states like Georgia where stay-at-home orders have been relaxed to try and get the economy going again. While customer safety is a huge part of the equation, it's also a matter of practicality from a business standpoint. In Texas, theaters and other businesses will only be able to operate at a maximum of 25 percent capacity in order to maintain social distancing.
That is already preventative in terms of making a business profitable, but the exhibition business is facing other challenges right now. Virtually all new movie releases have been delayed for months, with Christopher Nolan's Tenet still expected to arrive on July 17. Disney's Mulan is also dated currently for late July. Beyond that, virtually all other major releases that can hopefully help bring people back to theaters have been pushed to August, if not much later. While the Drafthouse does specialize in showing older movies, opening without something new to showcase is risky.
Founded in 1997, the Alamo Drafthouse was a pioneer in what has become the modern moviegoing experience at many chains, with full meals, a drink selection and wait staff on hand. The Drafthouse also has a notoriously strict policy when it comes to cell phone use and disruptions during screenings. The chain has 21 locations throughout Texas and 41 locations in total across the U.S. That represents but a small fraction of the more than 5,500 theaters across the country, it is a staple for moviegoers in Texas. It serves as a firm reminder that we're still, at the very least, weeks away from being able to head back to movie theaters again. Feel free to check out the full statement from the Alamo Drafthouse Twitter account.