Feeling nostalgic: Local theater set to reopen, offer drive-in movies
By Wesley Gardner
Hometown Cinemas in Lockhart is set to reopen to the public on Friday, but it’s doing so with a little twist.
Instead of simply offering movies to watch inside the building, Director of Customer Relations and Facilities Keith Hester said the theater will now offer drive-in options at both the Lockhart and Gun Barrel City locations.
“It’s something a lot of theaters are doing,” said Hester. “It’s something we’ve always talked about but never had a really good reason to start it.
“For people that don’t feel comfortable coming inside or sitting around other people, it gives them the option to experience a drive-in.”
At the Lockhart location, Hester said staff members were required to remove the old marquee and slap a fresh coat of paint behind it so it could be used as a screen.
Hester noted that cars would be positioned with the largest in the back and the smallest in front to ensure optimal viewing for everyone. Attendees can listen to the movie either by tuning into a designated FM radio station or with portable speakers provided by the theater.
Those interested in ordering tickets must do so online, and the cost will be a flat $15 per vehicle.
“Whether or not you have two people or a family of six, we’re just going to charge by vehicle,” said Hester. “We think it’s reasonable to do that, even though there’s a discrepancy if you only have two people versus five people, you’re getting a better deal per person, but
you don’t also have to buy our food or drinks, if you don’t want.”
Hester noted attendees can also purchase concessions online and staff will have it ready when they arrive, though they can still order from their cars if they’d like.
The theater offered its first drive-in movie last Friday, showing a screening of The Goonies.
“Everybody seemed to enjoy it,” said Hester. “People showed up with mattresses in the truck beds and lawn chairs.
“We got a lot of compliments about it. People were excited.”
Hester said the drive-in would mostly screen classics like E.T. or Gremlins, but noted he was planning on screening films aimed at a more mature audience like Jaws at a special midnight screening.
Even though you might play something that may be a little more mature for younger kids, parents and families would still come because the kids can sit in the back and play around or watch Netflix,” said Hester. “The kids normally would not be a captive audience inside the theater, so if it’s still something that might not be appropriate for the kids, you can get away with it because they don’t have to watch the movie.
“They might fall asleep in the car. You can bring the baby. I have a 20-month-old son that I would never take to a public show. I just couldn’t. He’s too young, but I can take him to a drive-in, and he can fall asleep. That’s fine. For families to able to go to a 9 o’ clock movie that wouldn’t normally be able to go to a 9 o’ clock movie because the kids can’t just go to sleep in the car, it makes it more flexible for them to be able to do that.”
Hester said he’s encouraging drive-in attendees to wear masks when dealing with staff members, though he noted that masks will be required for patrons who enter the building.
“When we do open, we do require face masks for anybody who comes into the building,” said Hester. “No exceptions.
“You can take off masks in the auditorium, but social distancing will still be required.”
With the building reopening on Friday, Hester said the big new movie released will be Unhinged, followed by Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated Tenet two weeks later. New weeks will be released regularly each week after that.
Hester added that while he was disappointed in Disney’s choice to release Mulan exclusively on Disney Plus, he understood the difficulty in the company’s decision.
“We’re obviously very disappointed that Disney decided to release Mulan on Disney Plus,” said Hester. “That was very disappointing for theater owners.
“There’s not much we can do about it. The studios have their own hardships too and financial strains. It’s not going to pull in the revenue that it would have in theaters even under these restricted circumstances.”
More than anything, Hester said he’s excited to be able to offer a theater experience to the public again.
“We’re tired of being cooped up, and we’re certainly tired of being closed as a business, and the people are, too,” said Hester. “It’s not a good feeling to not have that option to [come to the theater] and escape for a few hours. I miss it.”