The Alamo Drafhouse Cinema, which operates six theaters across Dallas-Fort Worth, and The Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff both announced they will not open their doors to the public despite the state's loosening of its business restrictions during the coronavirus outbreak.
"Opening safely is a very complex project that involves countless new procedures and equipment, all of which require extensive training," says an announcement on the Alamo Drafthouse's Facebook page. "This is something we cannot and will not do casually or quickly."
The theater chain released the statement following Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's announcement that certain businesses may reopen, including movie theaters. The shelter-at-home order will also end on Thursday, April 30.
Moviegoers who are hoping to see something that isn't on Netflix or illegally downloaded onto their computer can still find curated content online. Several local movie theaters including the Alamo Drafthouses and the Texas Theatre have been streaming special movie screenings for customers to make up for the closings.
The Drafthouse is offering virtual screenings of independent films such as the music documentary Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band, the Romanian thriller The Whisperers and the surreal Western Bacurau, which won the Jury Prize at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. The chain will also offer its special Terror Tuesday and Weird Wednesday movie screenings every other week.
"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." – The Alamo Drafthouse, via Facebook
The Texas Theatre's upcoming streaming schedule includes Bacurau as well as the documentary Other Music, about the famed New York City record store of the same name, and ROAR, the notorious 1981 adventure comedy about a family living on an African nature preserve starring Tippi Hedren, Melanie Griffith and 100 untamed animals that injured nearly everyone on the set during its filming.
Both theaters have been closed for more than a month since the shelter-in-place orders started in late March. Barak Epstein, the operator of the Texas Theatre, says the virtual theater concept provides the safest option for customers.
"We want to be running the Texas Theatre for lots of reasons," Epstein says of keeping the content online. "The virtual cinema is not ever going to replace live screenings, and we don't think it's designed to, but it's doing something which is great and gives us a way to communicate with our fans."
The virtual screenings could also allow the companies to maintain some form of support for employees.
"We didn't look at it so much as selling movies as engaging with our audience and having a strong conversation with our audience in our markets back and forth," says Steve Bunnell, the senior vice president of film content buying and licensing for the national Alamo Drafthouse chain. "One of those aspects is supporting movie theaters and supporting people who work in movie theaters and supporting the movies."