Summer of 2020 may not have quite as many movie releases as in pre-COVID days, but customers are returning to the ShowBiz Cinemas family entertainment center in Baytown in a big way, according to ShowBiz vice president of marketing and content Jeremy Devine.
All parts of the entertainment industry were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Movies were no exception, but Devine said the local theater has weathered the storm and, as with many industries, the pandemic accelerated innovations that were already in the works.
“We’ve had a lot of independent films and we’re having more and more and more live events. That’s been something that’s been promised and has been around for a while, but it was one of the things that the pandemic just jump-started.”
Since California and New York, both hubs of movie production, were slower to re-open than Texas, production of major studio movies slowed, leaving re-opened theaters without their staple content.
The changes that brought, Devine said, even led to a job title change for him, from being vice president of marketing and film to being vice president of marketing and content, recognizing the fact that non-film content such as live sporting events are now a significant part of the
business—a change that isn’t likely to go away.
“We’re now getting to the point where we have live boxing being broadcast into our SDX big screen next week. The following week we have our fifth time that we’ve been playing UFC fights live, and we’re going to be bringing wrestling, all kinds of additional anime,” he said.
The ShowBiz Cinema at Chambers Town Center also benefited from offering arcade games (still being frequently disinfected) and bowling, which now has every lane open.
Fewer studio movies also provided a chance to build the market for private theater rentals, private parties and corporate events. The theater has a full-time sales manager to handle special events and rentals.
With converging technology, it is now possible, for example, for a person or company to rent a theater for a private showing of a current blockbuster (or one of many available classic movies) and also include a promotional video from the company CEO or a DVD slide show for a birthday or wedding video for an anniversary—all on the same big screen.
The theater also has a full-service bar which has stepped up the sale of special drinks themed to current movie releases.
While the company doesn’t release specific sales or attendance figures, Devine said business noticeably picked up in March, and likely would have been even stronger had there been more major movie releases.
With the release of “Godzilla vs. Kong,” he said, audiences really came back, leading them to add screens to accommodate demand. (Seating has increased but still incorporates distancing, reducing the capacity of each auditorium).
Coming months will have increasing output from the major studios.
May 28 “Cruella,” “A Quiet Place Part II”
June 4 “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It,” “Spirit Untamed”
June 11 “In the Heights,” “Twelve Might Orphans”
June 16 “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard,” “Peter Rabbit 2”
June 25 “Fast and Furious 9”
July 9 “Black Window”
July 16 “Space Jam: A New Legacy”
July 23 “Snake Eyes,” “Hotel Transylvania,” “Old”
“It may not be yet the huge number of blockbusters,” he said, but the number of big studio films is increasing along with independent films and other content options.