It was an especially cruel summer for Texas tourism, which saw untold millions of dollars lost to the COVID-forced closures of theme parks, hotels, and restaurants. Thanks to Texas’s relatively lax response to the coronavirus, we’re also currently ranked as one of the least safe states in the nation—which has to cut into our beach traffic just a smidge. Yet it seems like that same laissez-faire attitude could end up being an unexpected source of new visitors: Variety reports that people are now coming to Texas just to go to the movies.
Of all the Texas tourist attractions to hit up in August, a big, air-conditioned room sounds perfectly sensible under normal circumstances. But of course, nothing is particularly normal or sensible right now—including going to the movies, which is why thousands of theaters remain shuttered in major markets all across America. That’s why Texas expat Tyler Tompkins, an “evangelical [Christopher] Nolan fan” who’s desperate to see the new spy film Tenet on the big screen, decided he simply had to book a flight from Los Angeles back home to Austin, where chains from Cinemark to AMC to the Alamo Drafthouse are all currently rolling the dice on reopening. Tompkins told Variety he’s planning on landing in Austin on September 1, catching Tenet twice at the AMC Barton Creek Square, then heading straight back to the airport. His round-trip ticket set him back around $220, though obviously, the actual cost could end up being far greater.
“If I get sick, that’s my problem, but I want to make sure I don’t get anyone else sick, so I’ll be following the precautions,” Tompkins said of his journey, which will take him from one COVID hot-spot state to another, only to spend five-plus hours in a confined space breathing recirculated movie theater air with whoever else shares his dedication. It’s a fairly big gamble, given that most experts agree that there are simply too many variables to safely recommend going to the theater—and in addition to, you know, dying, there’s also the risk that Tenet ends up being kind of a convoluted mess. “It’s stupid, yes,” another anonymous fan told Variety, “but it’s something I’m interested in.”
Hopefully Tompkins plans on being extra responsible: wearing a mask, keeping his distance, and then quarantining for two weeks as soon as he gets back from the movie—both to avoid potentially spreading the virus, and so that no one has to listen to him talk about it.
A Wes Anderson–Inspired Theater Seat Claims to Protect Moviegoers Against COVID
Unfortunately, Tompkins’s trip is coming up way too soon for him to be protected by the Sequel Seat, the next-generation theater chair recently introduced by the London studio Layer to provide added defense against the coronavirus. Featuring a fabric “impregnated with copper oxide, granting it antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties,” as well as a removable protective screen and LED lights that project seat numbers onto the floor to promote social distancing, Layer says the Sequel Seat was created to entice audiences into theaters—albeit in a way that feels both slightly precious and fussily overdesigned. In that sense, it’s only natural that the seat was inspired by Houston filmmaker Wes Anderson, whose preferred color palette of “mid-century pastels,” as seen in The Grand Budapest Hotel, was specifically chosen for the chair to give it “a connection to the world of cinema.”
— Dezeen (@dezeen) August 25, 2020
Dezeen reports that Layer believes the Sequel Seat could play “a key role” in reviving sagging fortunes at the box office, which has already lost billions of dollars this year. Not to be overly cynical, but if the theater industry is really staking its future on a bunch of Wes Anderson chairs, it better put Bill Murray in them.
Amazon Orders Nicolas Cage’s Joe Exotic TV Show Straight to Series
It’s a little tricky these days to keep all the Hollywood adaptations of the Joe Exotic story straight, since at least three new versions of the eccentric zookeeper’s tale are in the works. But our favorite, naturally, is the one based on Texas Monthly writer Leif Reigstad’s original magazine feature. Starring Nicolas Cage, the show received a straight-to-series order by Amazon. Dan Laguna, of American Vandal fame, is signed on to write. We can’t wait to see what Cage does with the role, especially since he shares a certain quirky style with the real Joe Exotic—the actor decorated his home with “a nine-foot-tall burial tomb, an octopus, shrunken pygmy heads, a $150,000 Superman comic and a 70-million-year-old dinosaur skull.”
Iliza Shlesinger Announces Drive-in Comedy Tour
In the meantime, it seems more and more audiences are flocking to drive-ins—even comedy audiences. That’s what Iliza Shlesinger is counting on, anyway. Deadline reports that the Dallas-raised comedian has booked a nine-city tour of American drive-ins, including October dates in Austin, Houston, and Fort Worth. Iliza’s Comedy Tailgate Tour (sponsored by Monster Energy drink) will find Shlesinger doing her routine from a safe social distance, her jokes streamed via car radio to an audience of reflective windshields from which she will try to discern the faint sound of laughter behind layers of safety glass. It all sounds a bit cold and removed, but Shlesinger optimistically calls it “a way for me to connect with my fans across the country,” who will maybe flash their headlights if they really like something.
Kelly Clarkson’s Talk Show Will Resume With a Virtual Audience
A drive-in parking lot might actually end up being a more intimate reception than Burleson’s Kelly Clarkson will get when she returns to her eponymous talk show, the second season of which is currently taping in its Los Angeles studio before a live, entirely virtual audience. In addition to maintaining social distancing, the technology will reportedly allow Clarkson and her guests to “interact” with that audience, suggesting the setup will be something akin to what we recently saw at the Democratic National Convention and in your new work life: a haunting simulacrum of human engagement that’s primarily marked by a lot of people on mute, awkwardly waving at each other. If you want a front row to that, tickets are still available.
Megan Thee Stallion Headlines Virtual Red Rocks Festival
The audience has been eliminated entirely for Red Rocks Unpaused, a three-day music festival that promises to give fans a fully immersive experience inside Denver’s historic amphitheater, while artists like Megan Thee Stallion perform in the venue to empty seats. The Houston rapper headlines the second night of the festival alongside Lil Baby. You can watch both of them from the quarantined comforts of home while toying with customizable views and other interactive doodads. The latter includes “the power to control pyrotechnics, visuals, and lighting for each performance during the show,” which definitely seems like it could get out of hand. Anyway, head to VisiblexRedRocks.com on September 2 at 10:30 p.m. Central to start driving Megan Thee Stallion crazy with your overzealous strobes.
Dennis Quaid Making a TV Series About His Cat
Speaking of things that are virtually entertaining, the Dennaissance shall continue apace as Dennis Quaid readies a TV series about his cat, who’s also named Dennis Quaid. As Deadline reports, Saving Dennis Quaid will chronicle the Houston actor’s heroic journey to rescue Dennis Quaid the cat from an animal shelter in Lynchburg, Virginia, then bring him home to Los Angeles—a story so rich, apparently, that it will sustain both a TV show and a companion podcast. According to CNN, Quaid learned from a local news report that the Virginia shelter had named a six-year-old black rescue cat Dennis Quaid (presumably because he only dates two-year-old cats?). Charmed, he contacted the shelter and “met” the cat over Zoom, before sending his The Pet Show podcast co-host Jimmy Jellinek out to collect him. And then I guess something else happened that can fill multiple other episodes.
Selena Gomez Is Now an Ice Cream
If Dennis Quaid turning his cat adoption story into a multimedia franchise sounds slightly indulgent, well, at least he hasn’t yet released his own ice cream flavor. (Strawberry Lemon-Quaid. The White Stuff. Cake Balls of Fire.) But you can no longer say the same about Selena Gomez, whose recent foray into food-based branding—which began with her new HBO cooking show—now includes Cookies & Cream Remix, an ice cream based on Gomez’s new collaborative single “Ice Cream” with K-pop superstars Blackpink. Released through the New York–based Serendipity (in which Gomez is now an investor), Cookies & Cream Remix combines fudge swirls, cookie chunks, pink vanilla ice cream, and savvy marketing synergy, with pints dropping on August 28 alongside the song’s debut. Adorned with a cartoon image of Gomez, the cartons are available at 7-Eleven stores. Watch the promotional video on Gomez’s Instagram, in which the Grand Prairie singer pretends to be someone who regularly chows down on ice cream.
‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ Sequel Gets Authentically Texan Director
While we’re on the subject of terrifying faces, the latest sequel to local horror classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre seems to have hit a serious stumbling block, after Legendary Pictures fired directors Andy and Ryan Tohill just a week into shooting. Fortunately, the film—which, in proud franchise tradition, will ignore pretty much every Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequel ever made by picking up directly after Tobe Hooper’s 1974 original—has already found a new director in Dallas’s own David Blue Garcia. Garcia will reportedly be starting the film over from scratch, and hopefully bringing some authentic Texan sensibility to this entirely Bulgaria-set production. Please hurry up, sir. Our drive-ins could use it.
Did Post Malone Get a New Tattoo?
He did not. However, Exclaim generously tried to fill the void by stirring up a feud between the Grapevine rapper and his occasional collaborator Ozzy Osbourne, quoting an interview in which Osbourne said face tattoos “make you look dirty,” then trying to extrapolate this into some kind of “slam” on Malone. Unfortunately, Malone doesn’t seem to have taken the bait, instead focusing all his feuding energies on an Instagram-based guitar duel with producer Andrew Watt that, frankly, did not end in any tattoos. Watt fired back with his own crushing guitar solo that—were we Post Malone—would really make us want to go out and get a great big tattoo on our neck, like maybe a banana with sunglasses rocking a Stratocaster. Do something, man.
This Week in Matthew McConaughey
If Garcia needs someone to put on a robotic leg, rant about the FBI, and bite someone’s face off, he could always reach out to Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation star Matthew McConaughey. After all, it seems the Austin actor has a little downtime at the moment, seeing as his much-ballyhooed virtual live read of Fast Times at Ridgemont High has been indefinitely delayed because of “insurmountable” technical difficulties. But at least he’s been making the most of those idle hours—sharing a masked kiss with his wife, strolling through the sand in his Just Keep Livin flip-flops, and even posting (if not personally Photoshopping) movie poster–style mock-ups touting himself as the University of Texas’s Minister of Culture. Still, it’s been a little while since we’ve seen McConaughey’s face, or even heard his voice, and the days feel noticeably filled with red lights as a result.
Meanwhile, we suppose people are just getting by the best they can, with a whole lot of them reportedly listening to the McConaughey-narrated Sleep Story that’s on the Calm meditation app, a sleepy-time drawl that Calm’s “head of mindfulness” Tamara Levitt recently confirmed has been streamed more than 11 million times since it was uploaded in 2018. Indeed, we’re apparently so starved for McConaughey, some are even flocking around this Texas parrot that kinda, sorta sounds like him and squawks classic McConaughey lines such as, “Alright, alright, alright,” and, uh, “Shake your butt.” You see? This is what happens in a world so desperate for entertainment, people are risking their lives just to see a movie. Just stay safe and watch the dang parrot.