There are things from our past that should have never gone out of style. Remember the day where you could take the family out for an affordable and fun evening out? Remember when movies were an experience?
Hometown Cinemas, a family owned theater chain in Gun Barrel City offers a way to do this through a weekly drive-in. Family oriented classic films such as Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, and Jurassic Park are projected onto the outdoor big screen at 9:30 p.m. every Friday and Saturday night. A showing of Gremlins begins this week.
“We haven’t been doing this very long, three weekends so far,” said Keith Hester, director of operations. “People like it, it is a cool experience and very laid back.”
“It is a different experience,” he said.
Hometown Cinemas was founded in 2014 by Hester’s father, Randy, a veteran in the theater industry who fulfilled a dream of purchasing his first theater in Lockhart.
The family business has grown to five theaters. Like other small businesses and theaters, the chain was hit hard when Hollywood shut down due to COVID-19. The Hester’s strongly value their employees and community, so this created a difficult decision.
“We were shut down for almost five months,” Keith said. “Some other theaters opened back up but the bottom line is we are a first-run theater and our films come directly out of Hollywood, which stopped putting out films.”
Shutting down was simply the smartest financial decision to preserve long term success for both the theater chain and many employees.
“This has affected us like everyone else, but we want to get back to work and give people something fun to do.” Keith said. “This is one of the reasons we started the drive-in movies. We thought it would be a good thing to do for the community to allow them to get out of their home and be in the safety of their cars.”
The showings are classic feel-good family films according to Hester. Patrons can go in to use the restroom or get concession, but need to wear a mask barring a valid exemption.
The fee is $15 per car regardless of how many people are in it, which makes it an affordable outing if you have a large family. Hometown Cinemas is known for affordable ticket and concession prices, with most trips costing less than tickets alone at larger theater chains. Employee happiness is prioritized, management is on the floor working, and the customer experience reflects this.
Hometown is showing movies indoors at limited capacity and showtimes. Currently, there are two showings on weekdays and three showings on the weekends. Masks, social distancing and spaced out seating are being practiced. Ushers and staff are sanitizing between shows, clean hands between customers and will be handing out condiments instead of the self serve option. Due to COVID-19, they have temporarily had to suspend free refills.
New releases come out almost weekly. The theater is currently showing Unhinged, New Mutants and Tenet.
If you would like to enjoy a drive-in movie, or go inside and catch a new flick, visit hometowncinemas.com for full schedules and listings. This weekend will feature Gremlins.