As the old adage goes, the show must go on, and this holds true for some Texoma-area entertainment venues. While retail and other businesses continue the slow process of reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic, area movie theaters are starting the process of opening their doors to the public.
Schulman’s Movie Bowl Grille announced this week that it plans to reopen the theater side of its business on Thursday. This comes two weeks after theaters were allowed to reopen by Gov. Greg Abbott as part of phase one of statewide reopening efforts.
“There really is an opportunity for everyone,” Schulman’s Marketing Coordinator Emily Bell said. “It is a chance to come back into the auditorium, enjoy some popcorn and get back into the swing of things of the entertainment world.”
With the reopening, Schulman’s will have greatly reduced capacity. In each theater, only every other row will be open for seating. Additionally, there will be a two-seat gap between each family group, Bell said.
Under the new schedule, the theater will be closed on Tuesdays and Wednesday to allow for a deeper cleaning beyond the enhanced cleaning between showings.
For its reopening on Thursday, Bell said the theater will hold discounted showings of four films that were latest releases prior to movie theaters shutting down in March. The theater will also be showing four older films, including 1985’s Silverado for free during the next week.
With the arrival of the pandemic in the U.S., many studios delayed or rolled back the release dates for films. Other films that were released immediately prior to the pandemic have already gone to digital distribution on streaming services.
“I think you have to look at going to the movies as an experience in and of itself,” Bell said. “I know everyone is used to being able to sit on your couch and watch x,y and z on Netflix, but there is such a difference with going into an auditorium with your big old bucket of popcorn and a drink and getting to see a movie on the big screen.”
While some theaters are starting to open their doors, it may be a few months before new releases begin to hit the silver screen.
Representatives with Cinemark said they are not discussing any reopening plans as the theater chain is still several weeks away from opening.
“Cinemark is currently working toward a mid-summer opening date, contingent upon health and safety regulations, as well as availability of studio content,“ Cinemark Public Relations Caitlin Piper said in an email Wednesday.
The first major film schedule for release will be Christopher Nolan’s Tenet on July 17. Piper provided a list of scheduled movies for 2020, but the list only contained 12 titles.
Bell agreed that it will likely be July before new films come out. However, she predicted that once one studio moves to release, it will likely start a wave or releases by other studios.
“It kind of takes just one big movie company to decide to release a new movie and the others will follow once America as a whole becomes comfortable with going back to the movies,” she said.
Beyond the movie theater, Bell said the restaurant portion of Schulman’s opened for dine in last week following a relaxing of restrictions for restaurants.
Despite the reopening, Bell said the restaurant has seen an even split between its dine-in and curbside delivery options.
“We completely understand people’s hesitation to come in and dine in the facility, but we’ve also had a great turn out the few days that we have been open and enjoying a meal like they used to,” she said.
Bell said she wasn’t certain when Schulman’s would get more guidance on when it can open the bowling alley and arcade.
“Of course we’d love to reopen by June 1, but we are looking to the government’s approval and guidelines and what they think will be the safest route for the community. We do not know, but we hope it will be sooner rather than later,” Bell said.
While Abbot’s executive orders have allowed theaters to reopen their doors in a limited capacity, other entertainment businesses are still waiting for clearance.
HeyDay Entertainment plans a reopening for its entertainment and bowling venues this week, but only its Oklahoma locations.
“We are opening the bowling portion of our Oklahoma facilities this week,” HeyDay owner Trey Bates said. “We are able to exercise some of the procedures and protocols put in place not only by the CDC but general operational practices for our business.”
While the company is only able to open in Oklahoma, Bates said it gives the company time to adjust to new procedures which will likely be used in its Denison location.
For its bowling alley, Bates said HeyDay will be limiting groups to only six people and are only opening every other lane. The lanes will be available on a reservation basis.
“Physically, the capacity will be cut in half, and the number of people allowed in the building will be substantially reduced,” he said.
“I don’t know how customers will perceive it at first, but this is the new normal that is coming and I think everyone is trying to get used to what we are doing,” Bates continued. “We are going to try to make it as seamless and friendly of a process as possible.”
One attraction that has been allowed to reopen in Denison is the mini-golf course. Bates attributed this in part to the outdoor nature of the sport and the ease of social distancing and limiting exposure.
Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at email@example.com.