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Violet Crown Cinema in downtown Austin reopening for first time since March

Eric Webb
Austin 360
Violet Crown Cinema is reopening for private theater rentals.

The 2nd Street District's home for arthouse cinema is turning on the projectors after almost a year in the dark. Violet Crown Cinema will reopen on March 5, but it won't quite be like old times just yet.

The theater (434 W. Second St.) will kick off with a new program called RSVP Cinema. Billed as the first phase of reopening in a news release, its a private rental system for groups. Guests will be able to choose new releases or repertory titles, with rentals ranging from $50-$100, plus the price of tickets. No details were released Friday about further reopening plans.

It's been almost a year since movie lovers have been able to visit Violet Crown, which closed right as the coronavirus pandemic hit Austin's vibrant entertainment scene starting with the cancellation of South by Southwest. The theater, which has served as a SXSW Film Festival venue in the past, hosted a screening of festival selection "Feels Good Man" before eventually shutting operations down on March 17.

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“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, effectively immediately,” Violet Crown director of marketing and programming David Gil wrote in an email last March.

Violet Crown's sibling theater, Sky Cinema in Dripping Springs, shuttered for good in May.

While most area movie theaters have at least partially reopened since then, including locations of Austin-based chain Alamo Drafthouse, a couple exhibitors like Violet Crown and AFS Cinema have yet to resume regular, in-person, indoor screenings. Violet Crown, like AFS, has operated a virtual cinema program in the interim. Alamo Drafthouse also started a private theater rental program last year.

“Many of our patrons have reached out over the past several months, asking about opportunities for private screenings at our theater,” said chief operating officer Melody Smith in a statement released Friday. “RSVP Cinema allows our guests to experience movies again on the big screen, in a safe and comfortable environment.”

Now, Violet Crown customers will be able to choose from a selection of more than 100 movies. Whoever books the theater rental is given a link to distribute to their party to purchase tickets. According to the announcement, showtimes will be staggered to avoid too much overlap between groups.

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Among the initial slate of films available for private viewing: “Minari,” “Judas and the Black Messiah,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “Mank,” “Sound of Metal,” “Tenet,” “Time,” “Trial of the Chicago 7," “One Night in Miami,” “Wonder Woman 1984,” “Tom & Jerry,” Bong Joon Ho’s 2009 film “Mother,” Coen brothers classic “Fargo,” Talking Heads concert documentary “Stop Making Sense” and the first four “Rocky” films.

Food and drink options will still be available through a text message ordering system. Violet Crown's announcement also touted new pandemic safety protocols, including theater disinfectant sprayers, purifying HVAC systems and a face mask requirement.

Reservations are open and more information is available at https://austin.violetcrown.com/.