Alamo Drafthouse Won't Open Theaters In Texas Despite State Easing Coronavirus Rules

Although the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic shows no sign of easing up any time soon, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has begun easing stay-at-home rules for the state, announcing that businesses like restaurants, retail stores, museums, and movie theaters can reopen starting Friday. But in the face of Abbott's controversial (and potentially dangerous) decision, major movie chain Alamo Drafthouse Cinema has announced that its Texas movie theater locations will remain shut.

The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema chain announced that it will not reopen its 21 Texas locations despite Abbott's easing of coronavirus rules. The Austin-based chain closed down its 41 U.S. locations and furloughed its employees in mid-March amid coronavirus concerns, and said in a recent statement that those locations will remain closed even as states like Texas, Tennessee, and Georgia begin to reopen businesses.

"Opening safely is a very complex project that involves countless new procedures and equipment, all of which require extensive training," the company said. "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!"

It's uncertain how much federal aid Alamo received from the government stimulus package, which was passed to support struggling businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic. But while chains have benefited from the package, the small businesses that the bailout was supposed to help are floundering. However, movie theater owners have remained confident that the rescue package would help cinemas survive this pandemic.

Texas is the latest state to allow theaters to open, following Tennessee and Georgia in allowing restaurants, retail stores and museums to reopen, although most major theater chains don't expect to resume business until at least July. But even that start date is optimistic, as the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. recently passed 1 million. However, Abbott acknowledged that companies could choose to remain closed.

"This is permission to open, not a requirement," Abbott said.

Abbott added that theaters and other establishments will be allowed to operate at only 25% capacity — a capacity that would be "uneconomical" for businesses that do reopen, according to Variety.