Texas Governor Greg Abbott, in his infinite wisdom, has given movie theaters—along with restaurants, museums, and retail establishments (you know, the essentials)—permission to reopen this Friday, May 1. During a press conference on Monday, Governor Abbott clarified that the aforementioned businesses are not required to reopen, but should they choose to do so, they must operate at 25% capacity. The plan was approved by Dr. Deborah Birx, the retired U.S. Army physician and global health official who is overseeing the Trump administration’s coronavirus response efforts.
Despite Abbott’s permission, it seems that most—if not all—major theaters in Texas are committed to remaining closed for the time being. The Alamo Drafthouse, which is based out of Austin and operates 21 theaters in Texas, responded to Abbott’s announcement on Twitter:
A representative for Cinemark, which is also based in Texas, said the chain is “currently working toward a mid-summer opening date, contingent upon health and safety regulations, as well as availability of studio content.” The statement, obtained by Deadline, went on to read:
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 released a statement in response to Georgia’s plan to reopen theaters on April 27:
As the largest movie theatre chain in the United States, AMC is strongly committed to bringing movies back to the big screen, safely and responsibly. As we plan our reopening, the health and safety of our guests and associates is our absolute highest priority. To be able to open, we also need a line of sight into a regular schedule of new theatrical blockbusters that get people truly excited about returning to their favorite movie theatres. 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. While we expect to open our theatres 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. AMC is currently working through every detail required to successfully showcase these exciting new releases in an environment that’s safe and welcoming for moviegoers, and we will share those details as we get closer to the dates when our theatres will reopen.
As several people were quick to point out on social media, operating at 25% capacity would not generate enough revenue to cover the overhead costs for many of these businesses—particularly theaters. Abbott himself noted that the capacity requirement would prevent many businesses from reopening. Texas is not alone in these efforts: Officials in Alaska, Georgia, and South Carolina have announced similar plans to partially reopen businesses. The decisions come just a week after a series of protests at state capitals, where conservatives demanded the reopening of local businesses. (It was quickly revealed that these protests were part of what The Washington Post called “a wide-ranging and well-financed conservative campaign.”)
Meanwhile, Los Angeles-based writer John Rogers suggested a more nefarious (and frankly alarming) motivation for the reopening of businesses in Texas: