Texas Governor to Allow Stay-At-Home Order to Expire, Theaters Ponder Re-Opening

Image provided by EVO Entertainment

Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced on Monday, April 28 that he would allow his state’s stay-at-home order to expire on Thursday, May 1, a move that will allow select businesses to reopen as soon as this Friday. Among those businesses are movie theaters, which will be limited to 25% capacity.

Texas has long been one of the biggest hubs of movie theater innovation within the United States; top-50 chains Cinemark, Studio Movie Grill, Alamo Drafthouse, Premiere Cinema Corp. Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas (United States operations), Santikos Entertainment, and Showbiz Cinemas are all headquartered there. Chains founded in the state were early innovators in the realms of dine-in cinemas and cinema entertainment centers.

Alamo Drafthouse, which is based in Austin and has 21 locations in Texas, released a statement clarifying that they will “not be opening this weekend.” The statement, from an Alamo representative, reads in full: 

“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. We will not be opening this weekend. 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!”

Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi announced earlier this month, before Governor Abbott’s announcement, that his chain—the third largest in North America, based in Plano—is aiming for an opening date of July 1; there has been no subsequent public statement of a change in those plans. 

One chain that does plan to open in the coming week is EVO Entertainment, which operates cinema entertainment centers and drive-in cinemas throughout Texas. Per Evo’s website, two of their locations—in the towns of Kyle and Schertz—will open on Monday, May 4. The two locations will operate under Phase 1 of their relaunch plan, which includes:

  • Temperature readings of both guests and staff. Temperatures of 100.4 degrees or higher will not be permitted.
  • Guests and staff will be required to verbally verify that they or those in their household have not had symptoms of COVID-19 in the past two weeks.
  • Required facial coverings for staff and patrons. Patrons without face masks will have them provided by EVO. 
  • Nitrile gloves will be required of all staff, who must replace them every 30 minutes. 

“Operating standards for all phases” at EVO will include hand washing and sanitation standards, physical distancing, the requirement that staff members must stay home if sick, and the wearing of “required protective equipment” by staff.

More information on EVO’s reopening stratgy, including its future phases, can be found on EVO’s website.

On April 20, Georgia was the first state to announce that they will allow theaters, among other businesses, to open; subsequently, NATO released a statement on the potential early reopening for U.S. theaters:

While some states and localities are beginning to authorize the opening of movie theaters under certain conditions, the movie theater industry is also a national one. Until the majority of markets in the U.S. are open, and major markets in particular, new wide release movies are unlikely to be available.  As a result, some theaters in some areas that are authorized to open may be able economically to reopen with repertory product;  however, many theaters will not be able to feasibly open.

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