Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced on Monday that he will allow several types of businesses, including movie theaters, to reopen at strictly limited capacity on Friday as it becomes the latest state to try to restart its economy following the coronavirus shutdown.
Restaurants, retail stores and museums are also allowed to reopen under the new order, while hair salons, gyms and bars will have to stay closed. But theaters and other approved businesses will be required to operate at 25% capacity. Gov. Abbott said that this plan was approved by Dr. Deborah Birx, who is overseeing the Trump Administration’s pandemic response efforts. However, he acknowledged that this capacity limit may lead businesses to decide to stay closed until restrictions can be further loosened.
“This is permission to open, not a requirement,” Abbott said.
Several other states — including Georgia, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Alaska — have announced partial reopenings of various degrees in the past week, though so far few cinemas in those states, if any, have opened yet. With all Hollywood studios moving their major releases out of the second quarter of 2020, the national chains are currently planning for a reopening sometime in late June or early July. A spokesperson for national chain Cinemark, which is based in Texas, said that the company is continuing its plans for a July reopening.
And fellow Texas-based theater chain Alamo Draft House said it is not taking the reopening of its locations lightly and won’t be unlocking its doors 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. 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!” the company said in a statement to TheWrap.
While 25% capacity may not be economically viable for many theaters to operate under, reduced capacity is expected to be one of several precautions that cinemas will have to take whenever moviegoing is allowed to resume nationwide. Other safety protocols being considered by theater executives include deep-cleaning of all auditoriums after each screening and increased emphasis on online and mobile ticketing in order to reduce close social contact at ticket booths.