by Chloe Jordan | tech editor
The vibrant buzz of the screen, the nostalgic smell of greasy popcorn, the fade of the soft amber lights dimming. All these things contribute to the recognizable experience of going to the movies. The classic trip to the movie theater has been paused for a while, but will now resume. Alamo Drafthouse will be reopening, and here’s what you can expect.
The Stone Oak location of Alamo Drafthouse is expected to reopen in June. New house rules include maintaining six feet of social distance, wearing a mask unless eating or drinking, frequently washing your hands, avoiding crowds, and staying home if you’re sick. Signs in the hallways and restrooms help promote social distancing. Hand sanitizer is generously placed around the building. Your ticket will be refunded if you miss a movie because you’re sick.
“I do think it’s important to start going back to theaters and supporting them. It’s one thing to sit at home and watch a new release of a movie or an old classic but it’s a completely different experience seeing it in a theater,” film teacher Jay Asterman said. “In a theater you have a shared connection with the people watching the movie with you, you have an experience with them. That experience can even make a movie better.”
Alamo Drafthouse has improved their sanitation by disinfecting with EPA-registered, hospital grade disinfectants, used in professional electrostatic sanitation machines. Many locations have utilized MERV-13 air filtration systems. Alamo Drafthouse ensures patrons safety by deep cleaning the bathrooms and kitchens, and counters and stall doors are regularly sanitized. Staff is required to wear masks at all times, wash their hands frequently, take temperatures before work, and self screen.
“I remember sitting in a movie theater and watching Avengers: Endgame and the moment when all the portals start opening up to let in everyone who vanished and Captain America says ‘Avengers assemble.’ The whole theater burst into excitement and cheers, strangers turning to each other and connecting,” Asterman said. “It was an amazing experience and a memory I’ll never forget. That same experience doesn’t usually happen staring at a phone screen or a laptop or even a TV in your own home.”
Seating is compliant with social distancing limitations, and each purchase per party has two buffer seats.
“I can’t speak for everyone, only myself, but I miss the experience of going to the movies. Connecting with a group of people wanting to participate in a piece of art. Yes, even action movies like Black Widow or dumb comedies like Zombieland: Double Tap are art, just different sides of the spectrum of art,” Asterman said. “Movies are created to watch on a big screen, so the moviemakers want you to see them in a theater. Think of movies like Star Wars, Tennet or even Brokeback Mountain with the gorgeous cinematography – those are meant to be experienced on the big screen, not on a 6 inch screen.”
Guests are asked to arrive thirty minutes early before their show time, and if someone seems sick during the show, they may be checked on. If it persists, they might have to leave and come back sometime. Tickets and food will be refunded for those who have to leave because they are sick.
“[Theatres] have been affected really badly. Whole chains of movie theaters have permanently shut down or gone into bankruptcy,” Asterman said. “It’s going to be hard for the theaters to come back from the pandemic.”
Drafthouse now offers a smaller menu. Patrons can order food and drinks in the Alamo Drafthouse app ahead of time or from their seats in the theater.
“I think streaming services have benefitted in a huge way. Look at Disney+, they charge $8 a month, one of the cheapest services out there right now,” Asterman said. “Then they release Mulan but your $8 a month doesn’t cover seeing the movie on Disney+, you have to pay an extra $30 to watch that movie and you have to do it over a short period of time and you don’t get to keep it. So, you’re paying $38 to watch Mulan once on a small phone or laptop screen.”
For those who prefer private events for parties or just to hang out, private theatre rentals are available.
“There’s also the movies that are only getting released on certain streaming platforms. You want to watch Mulan, pay for Disney+. You want to watch Wonder Woman ’84, pay for HBO Max. You want to watch Sound of Metal, pay for Amazon Prime,” Asterman said. “All of sudden to watch 3 movies over the course of a month you are paying between $75 – $100 with all the fees, memberships and the access ticket to watch them.”
Season pass billing was paused unless you already cancelled or continued the subscription towards the Alamo Family Fund. Season passes will return soon.
“Just this week I went to the Casa Blanca theater, the first theater I have been in since Feb. of 2020. I went with a friend to go see the re-release of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” Asterman said. “It was an interesting experience. COVID safety protocols were in place with mask mandates and social distancing both while standing in line at the concession stand or bathroom and with skipping seats in the theater between groups of people.”
Alamo Victory offers are paused at the moment, but will resume soon. For now, all visits are double counted.
“Certain things were not being offered still. They had an ice cream and gelato stand but it was closed and didn’t seem like it was functional. There were not a whole lot of people in the building,” Asterman said. “In our theater there were probably less than 20 people. But the people in our theater were great and they were responding to the movie! Listening to other people laugh and enjoy the movie made my experience better and I enjoyed the movie more.”
According to the Alamo Drafthouse website, “This is a rebuilding year for Alamo Drafthouse, [their] industry, and so many others. It might be a while before [they] bring back everything you loved – [they] want to make sure [they’re] doing them the right way.”
“If we lose the theaters, we lose the movie going experience and the sense of connection that it creates of a group of people discovering and enjoying a piece of art together,” Asterman said. “Those are once in a lifetime experiences. We need the theaters.”