Most movie theaters across North Texas are opting to stay closed this weekend, even after Governor Greg Abbott relaxed restrictions on businesses and allowed them to open back up at 25% occupancy starting May 1.
But there is still one option for people who want to watch a movie from a location other than their couch: a drive-in theater.
This weekend, Coyote Drive-In will feature showings of the first "The Fast and the Furious" movie, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," "Trolls: World Tour" and "Sonic the Hedgehog."
Galaxy is also showing "Trolls," as well as "Fantasy Island," "Bloodshot," "The Invisible Man," "The Hunt" and "Underwater."
Coyote and Galaxy are poised to be the only game in town if moviegoers want to see a movie that's not coming from their house. Nearly every theater chain in North Texas has announced that they won't open their doors Friday.
These theater chains have released statements that they won't open:
- Dallas-based Studio Movie Grill
- Dallas-based Cinépolis USA
- Dallas' historic Texas Theatre
- Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse
- Plano-based Cinemark
- Dallas location of the New York-based Angelika Film Center & Cafe
Theaters aren't opening up partially due to safety concerns about coronavirus. But most movie theaters make money off of new movies, not repertory screenings, and a new wide-release film hasn't hit theaters since March 13.
Hence, the "Fast and the Furious" of it all at Coyote Drive-In.
"Since we are running older titles, we're discounting the ticket prices, but we figured that since we couldn't get the new 'Fast and Furious' movie, [scheduled for May], we would show the first one," said Dominic Bannister, Coyote Drive-In assistant general manager. "It's a little bit different with choosing movies now, especially since Universal decided to release 'Trolls: World Tour' on digital and in theaters, so we're trying to pick stuff that we think people will like."
Bannister said his employees have been hard at work this week renovating the theater parking lot and going through safety training to make sure the moviegoing experience will be as safe as possible.
Coyote will only sell 300 spots to accommodate the 25% occupancy rule laid out by Gov. Abbott.
Each employee will be in gloves and a mask and will maintain social distancing, and will have their temperatures checked before coming into the theater park.
Food can be ordered ahead online and will be delivered to patrons in their cars in airtight containers. Patrons who violate social distancing guidelines will be asked to leave.
"We're making sure this is going to be the safest option for you and your family if you choose to go see a movie with us," Bannister said.
He said they're already sold out for part of the weekend. Friday night is a private event for first responders, and tickets for Saturday and Sunday are going fast.
Bannister said he thinks this should help the drive-in business as a whole.
"I really hope it will. We've got a pretty strong following here in Fort Worth, and we've got a lot of people who are diehards, especially in the summer. I think this will be good for us for a while," he said. "It all depends on what the studios are doing in the future with video on demand and digital release. But I think there will always be a want for people to get out of the house and to see some sort of entertainment, especially now, when people want to see something that will get their minds off of the virus."
In fact, the highest-grossing box office receipt from the weekend of April 17 came from a drive-in theater in Florida, showing two new limited-release movies. Those two films made an estimated $4,300 at that theater that weekend.
Other theaters are doing all they can to stay afloat without having people in seats. To offset its lack of in-person ticket sales, the historic Texas Theatre is currently selling tickets to virtual events and virtual movie screeners that moviegoers can watch at home. Alamo Drafthouse is doing the same.
"As long as we can provide that escape, I think we should be OK," Bannister said.
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