Locally owned theaters remain open, despite pandemic challenges

Rio 6 cinemas.jpg
Posted at 1:01 PM, Apr 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-16 20:23:01-04

BEEVILLE, Texas — Rio 6 Cinema has been in the Hall family since 1922. Syd Hall’s grandfather opened the first theater in downtown Beeville, and the theater has been in multiple locations since then, but the business has remained in the family. Currently, Hall operates theaters in Beeville, Kingsville, Alice, and Kerrville.

Last year, the theaters sat closed for six months because of the pandemic. In September, the Beeville location opened to the public, but it was a slow process to get back to normal business.

Hall said the theater played whatever film they could get; playing a lot of independent films, and even showing ones from streaming services like Netflix and Amazon.

“We had a hard time with content, and we’re a content-driven business,” Hall said. “People were a little reluctant to come in, but people got used to coming in, the biggest problem is finding content that people want to see.”

Luckily, studios have started releasing more movies in theaters recently. One movie in particular brought in big crowds to the theater: Godzilla vs Kong.

“We were astounded by the number of people that showed up. We were quite busy,” Hall said. “I think the community, and everybody is ready to get out, and they’re looking for a place to go, and we’re just fortunate that we had a movie that people wanted to see.”

For independently owned theaters, help is on the horizon. The Small Business Administration is preparing a grant to theaters in danger of closing because of the pandemic. However, the grant has been delayed by months.

“The money was supposed to be available January, then February, then March. Just last week they opened the application process, and the whole application portal shut down, and has been plagued with problems,” Hall said.

Hall said he was told the portal was supposed to be fixed this week. Now, he anticipates it will be another week or more.

“It’s extremely frustrating, we’ve been preparing for this grant for months, and the rules and procedures of the grant change frequently during the week, if not, daily. So, it was very disappointing when the whole application process shut down,” he said.

Hall estimates around 75% of independently owned theaters in the country will close without the grant.

“There’s theaters everywhere that are closing because they can’t wait for the grant,” he said. “It’s been very difficult, but we’re going to survive, and we’re just doing everything we can to stay in business.”

Information on all the Rio 6 branches, including hours of operation, movies currently showing, and ticketing information can be found on the Rio 6 website.