Movie lovers in Dripping Springs will have to drive a little farther to catch a new release in a post-coronavirus world. Sky Cinemas has closed permanently, the theater announced Monday.


Located in the Belterra Village shopping center, the sibling theater to downtown Austin’s Violet Crown Cinema closed temporarily on March 18 due to a Hays County order meant to stem the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Though Sky Cinemas hoped to eventually reopen, the lost business proved to be too big an obstacle.


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"With our business closed due to (COVID-19) and no revenue coming in, we were unable to pay our rent," a statement from the theater’s owners reads. "We attempted to reach an arrangement with our landlord that would allow us to stay, but we failed to do so, and our lease was terminated."


Sky Cinemas’ closure affected 35 employees, a representative for the theater told the American-Statesman on Monday.


According to the statement, the theater’s landlord wants to fill the space with a new cinema operator.


Founder Bill Banowsky opened Sky Cinemas in 2018 with 14 screens, showing new studio releases and arthouse fare. At the time, Banowsky — a former executive with Magnolia Pictures and Landmark Theatres — told the American-Statesman he hoped to eventually expand the Sky Cinemas brand across the U.S. While that didn’t happen before the closure, the theater’s representative told the Statesman that the Sky Cinemas team is looking to keep the brand going in some form in the Austin area and elsewhere, including as a possible drive-in concept.


Banowsky’s Violet Crown Cinemas brand also operates theaters in Santa Fe, N.M., and Charlottesville, Va. While the downtown Austin location has not turned on its projectors again and is still monitoring pandemic safety conditions, Violet Crown says it is coming up with reopening protocols. Plans include selling auditorium admission to small groups instead of through individual ticketing, with groups given their own arrival times and lobby waiting areas that avoid overlap with other groups.


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Despite orders from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott allowing the state’s cinemas to reopen at limited capacity, most movie theaters in the area remain closed. Major studios also have pushed their big releases to late summer, meaning those theaters that do reopen must screen mostly recent releases and classic films for now.


"We love Dripping Springs, and are proud of what we built with this community," Sky Cinemas’ statement reads. "We set out to develop the finest family cinema ever created. We sought to establish a place where Dripping Springs’ families would come together as a community. Our cinema became what we hoped it would."