Some Texas businesses, including restaurants, malls and movie theaters, began to reopen Friday in response to Governor Greg Abbott's decision to let the state's stay-at-home order expire. Major theater chains have remained closed, but some smaller theaters have chosen to reopen — with heightened security measures in place.
EVO Entertainment CEO Mitchell Roberts told Variety that it plans to reopen two of its theaters with "airport security-style check-in" on Monday. He said the company's "focus is on earning that customer confidence back."
The open EVO theaters will allow guests to enter through a cordoned area and will be asked if anyone in their household has had flu symptoms in the last two weeks, Roberts told Variety. Guests will also be subject to an infrared temperature screening, and anyone with a temperature over 100.4 degrees will be turned away.
Under an executive order signed by Abbott on April 28, businesses are encouraged to follow the "minimum standard health protocols" recommended by Texas' Health Department, including social distancing.
"Individuals are encouraged to wear appropriate face coverings, but no jurisdiction can impose a civil or criminal penalty for failure to wear a face covering," the order reads.
Texas theaters are allowed to "operate at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy of any individual theater for any screening," according to Abbott's order. If the state sees two weeks of data without any COVID-19 flare-ups, businesses will be allowed to increase that capacity to 50%.
New data from Austin research firm Kickstand Communications shows that, while people may return to stores, the same may not be true of movie theaters, CBS Austin reports. According to Kickstand, 15% of Austin residents said they plan to immediately return to shopping at standalone retail stores, and 87% said they'll return within the month. But only 10% said they would immediately return to movie theaters and malls, and just over 60% of Austinites said they are planning to go back within the month.
Santikos Entertainment, a movie theater chain based in San Antonio, has reopened three of its nine locations at 25% capacity, Variety reports.
"We do not take these responsibilities lightly," the company's CEO said in a message posted to its website. "We have been working diligently on safety protocols that will make Santikos a model, not just for theaters, but for all businesses on how to open responsibly."
Like EVO, Santikos said it will also ask all customers if they — or anyone they have been in close contact with — has experienced anywithin the past 14 days. "If yes, you will not be allowed in the theater and we will reimburse you your ticket," according to the new guidelines.
Both companies are offering discounted $5 tickets during the reopening period, spaced seating, and have reconfigured their concessions to reduce person to person contact. "We are confident these daily procedures will provide a safe and enjoyable environment that will allow our community to escape this dreadful reality we've been living in," said Santikos' CEO.
As Texas relaxes its regulations, the state has 1,725 people in the hospital due to COVID-19, and 30,522 cases reported, according to the state's Department of Health. Of the 847 deaths reported statewide as of Saturday, 51 were in Austin's Travis County, and 48 in San Antonio's Bexar County.
Data suggests the state is doing less than half of its ideal projection of testing 40,000 people a day, despite having over 250 testing sites across the state. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkinsthat his area needs "about four times as much testing" as they currently have before returning to business.
"Texas — it fights each day to be either dead last or next to last on the amount of testing," Jenkins said. "To open up, you need to see [the number of cases] go down for two weeks."