As cases of COVID-19 continue to set new daily records around Texas, the prospect of returning to “normal” seems further and further away. Instead, we’re likely to live for a time in a period of relative normalcy, all becoming experts in risk assessment as we measure the things we want to do along a sliding scale of how likely they are to make us or others sick. Once ordinary things—like going to the grocery store or seeing a movie—now have to be entered into our mental probability calculators, sorted by relative peril. But to make it all a bit easier, the Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse chain has now pledged to make its theaters “safer than a supermarket,” so at least you can rank those accordingly.
Not that the Drafthouse is quite there yet. Executive chairman Tim League issued a statement this week saying the company would begin testing its new safety protocols in select venues beginning in early July, with plans to slowly roll out to all 41 locations soon after. Those initiatives include placing buffer seats between parties, making masks mandatory for both employees and guests, a wholly contactless online ticketing system, coordinating theater exits by row, and routinely sanitizing every surface with an electrostatic fogger.
“Our driving principle has been to make the Alamo Drafthouse experience one of the safest possible indoor activities—‘safer than a supermarket’—and far exceed the expectations you already have for supermarkets, gyms, and restaurants,” League said, adding, “We intend to make it so that you can leave your car, make it to your seat, enjoy your food and drinks, and be able to leave having never come within six feet of another person other than when your order is delivered, and having never touched a surface other than your chair and table.”
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Like most things nowadays, this moviegoing experience is pretty far from normal. But League expressed his optimism that it won’t last forever “if we all continue to do our part”—and as long as people start considering trips to all those aforementioned supermarkets, gyms, and restaurants as seriously as the Alamo Drafthouse takes going to the movies.
Pharrell Williams and Kenya Barris Developing Juneteenth Musical for Netflix
We know you’re getting tired of this refrain, but it is still perfectly safe to stay home watching Netflix—and increasingly, that seems to be where so much of Hollywood’s efforts are concentrated anyway. Among those is a new feature-length musical that’s based around Juneteenth, commemorating the day when word of emancipation finally reached slaves in Galveston. Deadline reports that Black-ish creator Kenya Barris is in the early stages of developing the film with Pharrell Williams, with Barris telling The Tonight Show’s Jimmy Fallon that he hopes to see it arrive on the streaming network in time for next year’s Juneteenth celebrations. Presumably Pharrell is even now whiteboarding rhymes for “Galveston.”
Beyoncé’s “Black Parade” Is Already a Song of the Summer
In the meantime, Juneteenth already has a new anthem thanks to Beyoncé, who dropped her latest single, “Black Parade,” in the waning hours of last Friday. And fittingly for the holiday, it’s a song (cowritten with husband Jay-Z) that celebrates both black heritage and Beyoncé’s Texas home. “I’m goin’ back to the South / Back where my roots ain’t watered down,” she sings at the very beginning of the track, kicking off a joyous trip through black identity that, as she later posited on her Instagram, offers a pointed rejoinder to the current struggles over police brutality and systemic oppression happening in the streets. “Being Black is your activism,” Beyoncé wrote. “Black excellence is a form of protest. Black joy is your right.”
“Black Parade” is barely a week old, but already it’s been pegged by Spotify as one of the likely “songs of the summer”—one of three spots held down by Houston artists, right alongside Rosalia’s “TKN,” featuring Travis Scott, and Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage Remix,” featuring, yep, Beyoncé. As Spotify’s list reaffirms, this summer promises to be a weird one, with several older songs (like Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” and Childish Gambino’s “This Is America”) getting a second wind thanks to their sadly renewable topical relevance. Given that “Black Parade” has both that and Beyoncé, it seems pretty clear who will end up owning the algorithm.
The Dixie Chicks Change Their Name
Texas trio the Dixie Chicks could end up nabbing their own song of the summer with the just-released political stomper “March March” from new album Gaslighter, but they may be doing it under a different name. As we reported yesterday, the country band released the “March March” video as simply the Chicks, which also now adorns their social media presence. Earlier this month, the group found itself caught up in the furor over fellow country act Lady Antebellum when it changed its own name to Lady A, with fans calling on the Dixie Chicks to erase their own implicit connections to imagery associated with the Confederate-era South. While most defended the group, pointing to its long history of progressivism—an attitude that saw it more or less blacklisted by country music for the better part of a decade—it seems like the Chicks nevertheless agreed that the times called for a change. And while the newly rechristened Lady A already ran afoul of a blues singer who’s been using that moniker for twenty years, reinforcing the very white privilege the change was intended to counter, at least the Chicks probably won’t get any incensed letters from a couple of former teen singers in New Zealand.
Showtime Delays Ethan Hawke’s Abolitionist Drama, The Good Lord Bird
Meanwhile, topical relevance has actually delayed the premiere of Showtime’s The Good Lord Bird, which stars Austin’s Ethan Hawke as abolitionist John Brown. The cable network says it’s moved the miniseries adaptation of James McBride’s 2013 historical novel from August to October, so that it could spend time developing a marketing campaign that more directly engages with the current conversation around systemic racism in America. Viewers of the virtual ATX Television Festival earlier this month already got a sneak peek of the show, which is told from the point of view of an enslaved boy who joins up with Brown’s insurrection and, eventually, his attack on Harpers Ferry in 1859. It’s a story that promises to have continued weight two or even four months from now, unfortunately.
Kelly Clarkson Gets a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Burleson’s own Kelly Clarkson is Los Angeles’s own once again, as the singer—who recently filed for divorce from husband and manager Brandon Blackstock—left behind their quarantine cabin in Montana to return to California. The city, it seems, was happy to have her back: Clarkson was among the 35 new honorees selected to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame—and is, to our knowledge, the first Burleson native to have her name engraved there. Clarkson will formally receive her star sometime in 2021, after which she can begin the daily ritual of keeping it scrubbed of gum and bird droppings that I just imagine all celebrities participate in. Personally, I would not be able to sleep.
Post Malone Got a New Skull Tattoo and Sold 50,000 Bottles of Wine
He’s probably still a few years out from getting his own Walk of Fame star, but Grapevine rapper Post Malone did get another monument that you can spot from yards away and put cigarettes out on. Over the weekend, Malone showed off the fresh tattoo of a skull he had affixed to his own, grinning out of one side of Malone’s freshly shaved head.
“I have cut my hair even shorter, also skeletons are cool,” declared Malone. He’s a man who savors words almost as much as he does fine wine—which, in other Post Malone news, he sold an impressive 50,000 bottles of this week. Within hours of its debut, fans had crashed the website for Malone’s “light, high-quality, accessible rosé,” Maison No. 9, depleting the initial inventory in a matter of 48 hours. But don’t worry: It’s still available to order from local suppliers in most states, including Texas, and its bubblegum-pink bottles will soon be spotted in stores everywhere, just waiting to be poured into your own skulls and inspire your own questionable decisions.
This Week in Matthew McConaughey
It was a week of (relatively) more sober reflection for Matthew McConaughey. On Monday, he paid tribute to the late director Joel Schumacher, who died at eighty after a battle with cancer. McConaughey penned a statement for Variety that credited Schumacher with giving him his entire career by casting him in 1996’s A Time to Kill, which marked McConaughey’s first leading role after a series of small (if certainly memorable) turns in movies like Dazed and Confused. McConaughey noted that, had Schumacher not fought to cast him over a bigger star, he would not be where he is today—nor would I be here, obsessively keeping track of where he is every day. So in a way, we both owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Schumacher.
McConaughey also took time to honor one of his other favorite people, Matthew McConaughey, on Father’s Day, posting a shot “with reverence” that prominently featured his fatherly butt. This week also saw him sitting on that same butt for a conversation with Mud director Jeff Nichols, which was livestreamed as part of SXSW’s virtually revived conference, and alongside his wife Camila Alves McConaughey, for Texas first lady Cecilia Abbott’s “Stars of Texas Storytime.” The McConaugheys put their own spin on Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, which he peppered with extemporaneous hollers of “Holy moly!” and the like. You can have McConaughey tuck you in any time you like by watching the replay on the governor’s Facebook page.
Finally, McConaughey marked the apparently momentous day of June 22 with a reading from the other book of Matthew. McConaughey posted his “favorite verse in the bible,” Matthew 6:22, on 6/22, which led into a lengthy extrapolation of McConaughey’s own, oft-cited gospel of the “high eye.” As McConaughey explained at length, learning to see through this single eye “where the truth is not a contradiction or duality, rather a paradox” has become more important than ever in the year 2020, which is “a year that signifies ‘the sharpness or clarity of vision at a distance’ (20/20 vision).” Got all that? Like I said, we all have to settle for relatively normal.