Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, all public spaces have been shut down. Restaurants, bars, shopping centers, and movie theatres have shut their doors, and with social isolation regulations in effect, everyone is looking for ways to entertain themselves while they weather this storm.
It goes without saying that as we enter into our second month of quarantine, many of us are starting to experience a bit of cabin fever. As citizens across the country have been searching for alternative ways to enjoy their old activities, one nostalgic pastime has been making a remarkable comeback: The drive-in movie theatre.
Catch a Flick from the Safety of your Own Car
Drive-in movie theatres have, for a long time, marketed themselves as a way to enjoy the movies from the comfort of your own vehicle. You don’t have to share an armrest with the person next to you, deal with someone kicking the back of your seat, or put up with someone talking, coughing, or sneezing in the row behind you.
The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has changed them from being places of comfort to being one of the only “safe” places families can go if they want to get out of the house .
Drive-ins now appear to be experiencing a renaissance, with ticket sales increasing across the country. Andrew Thomas, owner of the Showboat Drive-In Theatre in Hockley, Texas, recently had almost fifty percent more business than usual for a March weekend.
“Obviously this isn’t the way you’d want it to occur, but I’m excited for the idea that there may be a new generation of people that will get to experience going to a drive-in theater,” he said .
Open, But With Restrictions
It seems as though for the time being, drive-in movie theatres are the perfect solution to social isolation-induced boredom. Everyone can stay in their cars and can enjoy a movie without coming into contact with anyone outside of their vehicle. Drive-in owners across the country, however, have still been cautious in opening their facilities.
“We gave it a tremendous amount of thought this weekend about even being open,” Richard Boaz who, along with his wife Lisa, run The Monetta Drive-In Theatre in South Carolina. “We made changes. From the knowledge we have now, it is safe enough to open the drive-in if people stayed in their cars and maintained the social distancing everyone is talking about now.” 
Some of these changes include introducing single-occupancy restrooms, adjusted concessions access, and offering only half-capacity parking to achieve proper social distancing .
Nina Keba, who co-owns a drive-in theatre in British Columbia, Canada, says that they will be offering only one movie per night, as opposed to the traditional two, to minimize the number of people coming to the park. Every second parking space will be closed to account for social distancing, and concessions will be done on a checklist and delivered to a vehicle .
Additionally, increased cleaning, hand sanitizing stations, and cash-free payment systems will be in place .
Keba says that drive-ins are going to be an important way for people to access entertainment over the next several weeks, and possibly months, and believes that 2020 is going to be “the year of the drive-in”.
“It’s the safety of it all and just knowing that you’re secure and you can still watch a movie and be comfortable and you can even put your seat back and relax and you can bring blankets if you want [it] cozy,” she said .
Watching Movie in the Comfort of your Own Home
There are approximately 350 drive-in movie theatres in the United States, however, only about ten percent of them have remained open. In Los Angeles, for example, drive-in movie theatres were ordered to be closed on March 23 .
If there are no parks near you, however, that are open, there are other ways you can access entertainment. Some film studios right now are making their new movies available for at-home viewings, such as Onward, Invisible Man, The Hunt, and Emma. All of these films are available to be watched online for twenty dollars… a cheaper price than taking your entire family out to the theatre .
If it’s going to the movies with your friends that you truly miss, there is a solution for that, too. Recently, Netflix launched a new service called Netflix Party, which allows you to watch movies at the same time as your friends. It also provides a chatroom so you can talk about what you’re watching in real-time. If you choose instead to use another app to have a voice call or video chat while you’re watching, the extension syncs everyone’s devices together so no one is ahead or behind .
A Necessary Escape
As this pandemic carries on with no discernable end in sight, many people are feeling overwhelmed, scared, and emotionally exhausted. Movies can provide a means of escape, at least for a short time, to be absorbed in a different world where viruses and social-distancing laws don’t exist.
So long as the necessary precautions are taken, drive-ins are a way to get out of the house for a while, to relax, and to enjoy some time with your family. In times like these, we all need opportunities like that more than ever.
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