Multi-state multiplex chain Violet Crown Cinemas could become part of an even more robust theater ecosystem in the coming months if a proposed deal with Austin, Texas-based chain Evo Entertainment Group goes through this December as planned.
In a press release this week from Evo, the company announced its intent to merge Violet Crown’s operations in Santa Fe, Dallas and Austin, Texas, and Charlottesville, Virginia, with its numerous theaters in Texas, Florida and Oklahoma. Evo also announced its intent to rebrand as Elevate Entertainment Group.
“Today’s news marks a significant milestone in the pursuit of our long-term vision for the future of cinema and entertainment,” EEG founder and CEO Mitch Roberts says in the announcement. “As an Austin local, Violet Crown is a brand close to my heart and I am honored to be trusted with the task of preserving and expanding their legacy.”
The deal would bring EEG’s holdings up to 19 theaters across four states—including some that operate under the moniker Showbiz Cinemas—for a total of 202 screens. The announcement also says there are another four projects in the works, though no future plans or locations have yet been announced.
Meanwhile, in Santa Fe, Violet Crown Cinema founder Bill Banowsky says programming at the four Violet Crown locations is not slated to change in any way, nor is the name. The theater’s mainstream-meets-indie-meets-arthouse vibe was actually a major selling point, he tells SFR. Banowsky will maintain managerial duties for the Santa Fe location at 1606 Alcaldesa St. in the Santa Fe Railyard for the foreseeable future.
“They’re buying the brand with the resources and desire to expand Violet Crown into other markets, and they’ll begin operating the Austin, Dallas and Charlottesville locations once we close [the deal],” Banowsky says. “I look at it more like a partnership I’ve created with Mitch [Roberts] to take what we’ve created with the Violet Crown concept and turning over operations for all the theaters outside of Santa Fe—but I’ll continue to operate the Santa Fe location for the foreseeable future. Nothing will change. Zero change.”
Banowsky’s film pedigree is certainly apparent. He founded distribution company Magnolia Pictures (Man on Wire, Melancholia) in 2001, which he sold in 2003 before becoming the CEO of Landmark Cinemas through 2006. Banowsky later founded Carolina Cinemas in North Carolina in 2008 and Violet Crown Cinemas in 2010, with its first location in Austin opening the following year. He sold Carolina Cinemas to Cinemark in 2015 and maintained an advisory role with Landmark until 2018.
Should the EEG deal go through, it would mark the second time a Banowsky-owned property phased to that company’s ownership. In May 2020 the Sky Cinemas in Dripping Springs, Texas closed and was acquired by Evo Cinema that June. Banowsky, who also co-owns Nuckolls Brewing, Sky Coffee and Sky Railway in Santa Fe, says he’ll remain an equity shareholder with EEG, but that he now considers Santa Fe his home base.
“[My wife] Susan and I live here full time, and I’ve got all of my focus right now on projects I’ve gotten involved with in Santa Fe...so I made a decision that I just want to be here pretty much all the time and focus on the opportunities right in front of us,” he explains. “I basically wanted to have a job where I can come to the office and my office is the Santa Fe Railyard—and I never have to get on a plane again.”