Texas starts the process of reopening this Friday, but most of your favorite arts and entertainment venues have made the decision to play it safe even with permission to partially open. Chances are, you’re going to have to be patient for a while longer.
The first phase of Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan to reopen the state will allow certain businesses– including non-interactive museums, movie theaters, malls, and libraries–to operate at 25 percent of their occupancy capacity starting on May 1. Yet, many of the venues that would be included in phase one have opted to wait.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins urged local businesses and the public to really weigh whether it’s time to participate in public, indoor, group activities: “The orders have changed but the science that will keep us safe has not. I believe North Texans will focus not on ‘what can they do’ but rather ‘what should they do.’”
That’s the attitude we should all adopt, and many of the city’s cultural players already have.
Texas Theater will not open, but will continue online streaming and curbside pick-up packages. Alamo Drafthouse’s Texas locations will also remain closed. The company explained on Twitter, “Opening safely is a very complex project that involves countless new procedures and equipment, all of which require extensive training. This is something we cannot and will not do casually or quickly.”
Other major chains AMC and Plano-based Cinemark have also opted to delay and aim for a mid-summer reopening date. While movie theaters are technically included in phase one this weekend, you’ll be hard pressed to find any open. If you must, I’d recommend making the haul to the drive-in instead–it’s retro and contact-free.
The Dallas Museum of Art and Nasher Sculpture Center swiftly responded to the new order by releasing statements that they would remain closed for the time being. The Kimbell Art Museum, the Amon Carter, and The Modern in Fort Worth are also waiting a while longer to set reopening dates.
All museums are required to shutter “interactive” components like child play areas, not to mention those immersive, touchable exhibitions that have been so popular as of late. That makes it pretty much impossible for somewhere like the Perot Museum to reopen at all; the science museum will not be back Friday.
Similarly, interactive entertainment venues are not allowed to reopen yet. The rule mentions arcades and bowling alleys, but it’s unclear whether pop-ups like Sweet Tooth Hotel and the Museum of Illusions fall into the first or second phase.
“Since business owners are left to interpret this for ourselves if we’re in a gray area, I’ve been considering the language based on how we are zoned,” says Sweet Tooth Hotel co-founder Jencey Keeton. “Since we are zoned as commercial amusement versus retail or art gallery, I do include us in the same category as museums which will be allowed to open on Friday. However, anything that is ‘interactive’ won’t be allowed to be open inside the museums.”
The vague language of the order leaves a lot of gray areas like this. When, exactly, does a space become too “interactive” for the age of COVID-19? The clearest item on the checklist comes first: stay at home if you can. Once again, museums and movies are enjoyable–but they’re simply not essential.