Cinemas Offering Virtual Film Options to Audiences
By Nataleah Small
Photography By Nataleah Small
Movie theaters in Austin across Texas could reopen at 25% capacity on May 1 according to an announcement from Gov. Greg Abbott. However, many cinemas have decided to remain closed due to concerns about COVID-19.
Violet Crown Cinema, located in downtown Austin, began its temporary closure on March 17, but managers have yet to determine when it will reopen.
“We did shut down, and that was prior to any kind of government mandate or local or state mandate that we needed to,” said David Gil, Violet Crown director of marketing and programming. “With everything going on, it seemed for our staff and our patrons it was the safest thing to do.”
Gil said the process of shutting down has been difficult for the cinema. But he said Violet Crown is taking the time to do a deep cleaning of the theater and revise their menu.
“It’s great we have (the time to be able to do that) because, again, you’re just constantly busy and everybody’s burning at both ends,” Gil said.
To stay connected with the community, Gil said the Violet Crown is working with their arthouse cinema partners, such as Kino Lorber and Zeitgeist Films, to offer virtual cinema options online.
From the Violet Crown website, audiences can stream recent releases for 72 hours for the price of a normal movie ticket. Pahokee, a documentary about high school students from a town in the Florida Everglades, is one of the films that can be streamed for $18.
Gil said the theater is partnering with film distributors to offer online question and answer sessions with directors for free on platforms such as YouTube Live. To date, there have been three question and answer sessions with Pahokee directors Patrick Bresnan and Ivete Lucas.
During the third question and answer session on May 2, the directors talked about the challenges of filming the documentary and how they honored the narratives of their subjects.
“It was a mixture of telling the stories of people who were not being represented and also preserving this culture and bringing it forth as part of the American landscape,” Lucas said.
Although cinemas across the country are offering these virtual options, Bresnan said he has also observed how the pandemic is having a detrimental effect on theaters.
“It’s terrible for cinemas and people who work there and the people who program and audiences who love to go into a room,” Bresnan said.
Bresnan said this time has also been difficult for Lucas and himself because films are a social experience for them. As independent filmmakers, he said they enjoy going to film screenings in theaters and talking with audience members.
Although the future is uncertain, Gil said the Violet Crown is looking forward to what may come. However, he said the world that the theater reopens in will be vastly different than the one it closed in.
“Everybody wants to get back to what’s normal,” Gil said. “Whatever that new normal is, people want to get back to it. We want to watch movies again, we want to talk to our friends again.”