EVO Entertainment opening Schertz movie theater on Monday, bucking industry trend

EVO Entertainment, a small Texas movie theater chain, is bucking the industry trend and plans to open two theaters next week, including one near San Antonio.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott may have given the go-ahead for theaters to reopen starting Friday on a limited basis, but most multiplexes won’t be opening their doors any time in the very near future.

EVO will open its theaters in Schertz and Kyle on Monday with a lineup of “classic feel-good titles” such as “Grease,” “Selena” and the Harry Potter films, said Mitch Roberts, CEO of the Austin-based company.

“I think that from the beginning of this my mantra is just kind of elevating a level of patience,” Roberts said. “(And) for those people we say please come on in, but slow down a little bit and adhere to these standards.”

Among the new policies in place: staff and guests will have their temperatures taken upon entry; face coverings will be required; tickets must be purchased online or at a self-serve kiosk; and alternating aisles will be closed while aisles in use will have a two-seat spacing between groups. A group can have up to five guests.

EVO’s complete plan for reopening is online at evocinemas.com/covid.

For other chains, the need to implement safety measures and retrain staff, as well as a lack of new Hollywood movies, is likely to keep theaters shut into the summer.

In order to reopen, theaters will have to reconfigure their auditoriums and schedules to accommodate the ruling that their businesses — along with such other establishments as restaurants, malls, museums and libraries — can’t be more than 25% of capacity. Staffers will have to be trained in the new health protocols and social distancing.

Beyond that, there is no new product for them to show. Major studios have shelved many of their high-profile titles — “Mulan,” “A Quiet Place II,” “Black Widow” among them — until later in the year or 2021 or moved them to video-on-demand or streaming.

The next big studio movie, director Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” is scheduled to open July 17.

That’s the date that AMC — which operates more than 600 locations in the U.S., including the AMC Rivercenter 11 in San Antonio — pointed to in a statement it released to the trade magazine The Hollywood Reporter last week.

“To be able to open, we … need a line of sight into a regular schedule of new theatrical blockbusters that get people truly excited about returning to their favorite movie theaters,” AMC said in the statement. “Those blockbusters are scheduled to return this summer, beginning with Warner Bros. ‘Tenet’ and Disney’s ‘Mulan,’ with many more major titles scheduled immediately thereafter.”

Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi is quoted in The Hollywood Reporter as saying that his chain is on a similar timeline “out of abundant caution.” Cinemark has two San Antonio theaters.

Regal, with five theaters in San Antonio, also will remain closed and, as of last week, had made no decision about a date to reopen.

Santikos Entertainment, which owns nine theaters here, has not announced a reopening date, either.

The San Antonio-based chain will continue to evaluate local, state and federal guidelines, a spokesman said in a statement on Tuesday, “so when we make our opening announcement, our main priority and promise is the safety of our guests and employees.

“When we open, it will be imperative we open the right way.”

Alamo Drafthouse tweeted Monday evening, “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.”

There are three Drafthouse locations in San Antonio.

According to Variety, an estimated 150,000 workers in the movie exhibition industry have been furloughed or laid off since the pandemic lockdowns started.

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