Alamo Drafthouse is reopening two of its Austin theaters this week. Movie goers may choose between seeing films at Lakeline or at Slaughter Lane. The movie selection, like the food & beverage menu, is radically slimmed down, but that’s to be expected in this ongoing pandemic.
Here’s how Alamo is handling showing films in the midst of COVID-19:
- Limited seat availability to ensure a minimum of 2 empty seats on either size of your party. These “buffer seats” offer at least six feet of distance between you and other movie goers.
- Guests, who must maintain 6′ of distance between themselves and people not in their party, may not arrive earlier than 30 minutes prior to showtime. A staff member will perform a temperature check, and guests will proceed directly to their seats.
- All food and drinks are ordered prior to arrival online when purchasing your tickets. You may not order anything when you’re in the theater, although refills of soda and popcorn are allowed.
- Restrooms will have social distancing markings on floor.
- Masks for everyone, all the time. This means employees as well as guests. You may take off your mask to eat and drink, but cover up once you’re finished your meal or popcorn. If you only order a drink, you’ll be expected to wear that mask between sips, unless you’re chugging it. Actually, the last one is not spelled out in their policy, but what I’m hoping will happen. If you forget your mask (or “forget” wink wink nudge nudge for you anti-maskers), you will be given one. No mask, no movie.
- The limited menu will still offer vegan and gluten-free options, and is heavily focused on pizza. Fans of the chicken tenders, fish & chips and that tasty Buffalo Cauliflower will be relieved to find these entrees made the list. The beverage menu is reduced to closed containers such as “cans, bottles, paper cups with lids or other sealed vessels.”
- When the movie is over, guests will exit by row, presumably from those closest to the screen first. This allows proper social distancing, and eliminates overcrowding in the exit hallway.
- Team members will wear gloves in addition to masks, and will wash their hands and don new gloves every thirty minutes.
- The theater will have hand sanitizer widely available, and sanitizing wipes at your table.
- All auditoriums will be disinfected between screenings with professional grade cleaners.
- The kitchen, bathroom and other high traffic areas will have routine, scheduled deep cleaning. Additionally, foodstuffs delivered to the kitchen will also be sanitized.
I’ve been scrupulously avoiding people not in my “quarantine bubble,” but have had to venture out to grocery stores from time to time. I’ve experienced grocery shoppers invade my personal space each time, but luckily have not ended up with the virus. Alamo Drafthouse has adopted pandemic policies and procedures that are much stricter than grocery stores, making it very attractive to take the plunge and venture out for a night of entertainment.
If you’re like me (high risk, cautious), you have to put a toe in the water to check the temp before jumping in. Because many people are still in the “not yet” frame of mind, I feel like a movie during the early part of Alamo’s opening will be my safest bet. All team members will be fanatic about sanitizing efforts, and no one has been in these auditoriums for months. My tween son has been suffering from lack of socialization, so this seems like a perfect opportunity to add some outside-the-home entertainment. I do worry that as time goes by, the staff will grow complacent, lax about the frequent hand washing, glove changes, and sanitizing efforts. It’s up to theater leadership to ensure they stay compliant with their strong and clear policies and procedures. What do you think, Austin? Are we ready to be back in movie theaters, with precautions?