If you want to watch a movie in the Austin area over the next couple of weeks, you’ll have to do it from home.
On Tuesday, Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt announced a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people until May 1. It’s the latest such cap set as an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Barring severe limits set on the number of tickets sold, that might lead many movie theaters to shut their doors. Adler and Eckhardt also ordered all restaurant dining rooms and bars closed, which would affect many dine-and-watch theaters like Alamo Drafthouse locations.
But most theaters had darkened their screens already.
Homegrown chain Alamo Drafthouse announced Monday it had closed all locations "until further notice" to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
"Goodbye for now," the company’s statement reads. "We’ll be back."
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All shows were canceled, and all tickets will be automatically refunded, according to the Drafthouse statement. The company also will pause billing for season pass members.
"When we re-open after this unprecedented and indefinite hiatus, it will be in a dramatically altered world, and in an industry that’s been shaken to its core," the statement reads. "We’ll be in close contact over the coming days and weeks with our teams, suppliers, and colleagues on what these closures mean and what we plan to do next."
Alamo Drafthouse said it has committed "up to $2 million" to a relief fund "to try to assist as many staff members as possible."
On Tuesday, both Violet Crown Cinema and AFS Cinema announced they would shut their doors for the near future, too.
"The health and welfare of our guests and employees are always our first priority. With that in mind, and taking into account the latest recommendations by CDC to refrain from gathering in groups of more than 10 people, we have, with a heavy heart, decided to close all Violet Crown Cinema locations, effective immediately," Violet Crown director of marketing and programming David Gil said in an email.
Violet Crown will "provide full refunds for all guests who have purchased tickets in advance. For those who purchased their tickets in person, please email the cinema directly and a staff member will assist you."
Austin Film Society made a similar announcement Tuesday morning. Initially, the society said its AFS Cinema on Middle Fiskville Road would shut its doors effective Friday. But after the city’s announcement on permitted gathering size, a second news release went out saying the theater was closed as of Tuesday.
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"Following the recommendations of the CDC and Austin Public Health, the Austin Film Society believes the best course of action to keep the community safe is temporary closure," Austin Film Society communications manager Brady Dyer said in an email.
AFS said anyone who bought a ticket in advance should go to austinfilm.org for refund information. Benefits for members of the film society will be on hold until the cinema reopens and will be "extended to make up for the period of closure."
It’s been a tumultuous couple of weeks for theaters like Drafthouse, Violet Crown and AFS, which all were set to serve as South by Southwest screening venues until the festival was canceled on March 6.
Large megaplex chains took similar steps this week. AMC, Regal and Cinemark (all of whom operate Central Texas theaters) announced temporary closures early this week. Other chains with Central Texas locations, including Moviehouse & Eatery, Galaxy Theaters, Flix Brewhouse and Evo Entertainment, had not made announcements about possible closures as of press time Tuesday.