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Between August 21 and 26, in Karlskrona, Sweden, the Carl International Film Festival will have 30 boat-in screenings.

You already know that drive-in movies are back in style. (Remember this March post?) Today I have a Forbes article describing how the idea of using vehicles for social distancing has expanded in Europe.

Sarah Turner writes, “While many of Europe’s arts festivals have been cancelled this year, including Edinburgh, Bayreuth and Glastonbury, others have turned to 1950s America for inspiration with drive-in performances.

Nowhere more so than Germany, which is, appropriately enough, still the heartland of Europe’s car industry which got on board the trend early with festivals in Leipzig and Dusseldorf, partnering art films with innovative venues.

“The Kunstfest Weimar festival, founded in 1990, encompasses  music, theatre and dance to fine arts and film. One of the three strands to this year’s festival is coronavirus and its impact on both society and individuals. To reflect this, six specifically created productions will be staged at a new venue, the Alte Feuerwache drive-in cinema. …

“In the U.K., various drive-in concepts are also taking shape. In early July the unabashedly feel-good Nightflix festival is part music concert, part film screening with cover bands and classic movies. There are two venues, Colchester in Essex and Newark in Nottinghamshire; options include Abba tribute bands and screenings of Grease, Moulin Rouge and Joker. Around 350 cars will be able to attend each performance, with the modern festival essentials of sourdough pizza and halloumi fries also being on hand.

“The Henley Festival, usually a bastion of black ties and crowd-pleasing performances, is putting on an Alternate Festival between July 9-12 with car-based comedy, theatre and karaoke. After Henley the Car Park Festival will be going on the road, venues include Dudley, Manchester, Northampton and Newbury while film and comedy-based The Drive-In Club will take place at London’s Alexandra Palace.

Live Nation will be putting on drive-in concerts with — among others — Dizzee Rascal and Kaiser Chiefs and the cult musical Six, based on the wives of Henry VIII. …

“In Cornwall, Wavelength magazine will have clifftop drive-in cinema experience at Watergate Bay from late July through to the end of August 2020 alongside a host of on-site socially-distant options including street food, live music, tombola popcorn stands and craft beer bars.

“Held at Trebelsue Farm, with space for over 200 cars and vans, The Wavelength Drive-In Cinema Series will start on Friday 24th, the Cornish-set surf film Blue Juice and continues into late August.

“But it’s Scandinavia that is taking the most innovative approach to the notion of the drive-in festival. Between August 21 and 26, in the Swedish town of Karlskrona, the Carl International Film Festival will have 30 boat-in screenings. Taking place in the Salto Fish Harbour with two LED screens, up to 100 boats will be allowed in, drawing attendees from around 1,600 nearby islands, with food delivered to boats from harbourside restaurants.” More at Forbes, here.

Speaking of social distancing by boat or car, I recently suggested to a friend who can’t go farther than her yard or her car that in winter we should park our cars somewhere six feet apart, open a window, keep the heat running — and continue our weekly visits.

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The English National Opera (ENO) is rethinking how to stage productions for the current self-distancing environment. A lot depends on when driving restrictions might be lifted.

Mark Brown writes at the Guardian, “English National Opera (ENO) has announced plans for what are thought to be the world’s first drive-in opera performances.

“Planned for the first three weeks of September, the idea is to stage live performances in the grounds of Alexandra Palace, north London, with musicians and singers spaced out to conform with physical distancing guidelines. If successful, ENO hopes to roll out the ‘Drive & Live’ concept to other parts of the UK.

“Stuart Murphy, ENO’s chief executive, told the Guardian it was part of the company’s mission of ‘opera for everyone.’ He said: ‘It is a bit of an experiment and if it works it might be a way of bringing the art form to people in a totally different and authentic way.’ …

“The idea is that the audience would be in 300 cars, with the bigger vehicles at the back. People on motorbikes and pedal cycles would also be allowed. Then windows go down and the audience watches the live performance unfold on a specially constructed set.

“The audience reaction could be interesting, Murphy said. ‘Instead of clapping or shouting “bravo,” it might be that people flash their lights or honk their horn. As long as it’s authentic, we’re not going to force it.

“ ‘I think it could attract a whole new generation to opera, people who love their car, see it as an extension to themselves.’ …

“Murphy said if the concept worked, then he could see drive-in operas being staged at racecourses or historic properties. ‘We’ve also had a couple of really productive conversations with international opera houses who think we’re on to something. It is an attempt to square the circle and let people have a big collective moment while staying safe.’

“The first 12 performances will be a shortened 90-minute version of Puccini’s La Bohème and a one-hour family-friendly version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute.

The first show will be free for National Health Service and frontline workers. …

“Murphy, who joined ENO in 2018 after a career in TV [said] all arts companies needed now to be ‘nimble and quick’ and react to circumstances, but at the moment ENO was not planning for seats being empty. …

“Some countries have allowed drive-in cinemas to remain open during the lockdown. Germany, for example, has two year-round operations, in Essen and Cologne. According to the Hollywood Reporter, both have sold out for every screening since Germany’s lockdown was declared. Makeshift drive-ins are also popping up around the country.

“In the US, the spiritual home of the drive-in, fewer than 25 of the nation’s 320 drive-ins are reportedly open for business, but that could change. The New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, said [in April that] he would consider allowing drive-ins to reopen. ‘Where is the public safety issue? It’s a drive-in theatre. You’re in the car with the same people,’ he said.”

Photo: Donald Cooper/Photostage
An English National Opera production of
The Magic Flute in the Good Old Days of 2019. Today ENO operas must take Covid-19 and social distancing into account.

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drive-in-theater-5

Photo: TheTakeMagazine
Drive-in theater. When? My husband says he can tell by the cars that the photo is circa 1950. (Homeschool history project: Research drive-in-movie theaters in your state.)

Everything old is new again under quarantine. People are suddenly getting an urge to bake their grandmother’s traditional recipes while stuck at home. Drive-in movies are back in vogue. Fancy a flic for a birthday party, all friends in different cars?

Speaking of birthday parties at drive-in theaters, I wonder if Carole remembers her party, when we saw the seafaring tale Two Years Before the Mast. How old were we? I don’t remember the plot, but talk about social distancing! I definitely wouldn’t want to be on a ship for two years like the crew in the film. For one thing, people get sick. In the old days, they didn’t get coronavirus like folks on today’s cruises, but scurvy, for sure. I do remember one sailor in the film got scurvy from lack of citrus.

I got a kick from Jake Coyle’s Associated Press (AP) report on folks lucky enough to find a drive-in today.

“The drive-in theater,” he write, “long a dwindling nostalgia act in a multiplex world, is experiencing a momentary return to prominence. With nearly all of the nation’s movie theaters shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic, some drive-in owners think they’re in a unique position to give moviegoers a chance to do something out of the house while keeping distance from others. …

“The Showboat Drive-In Theater in Hockley, Texas, about a 30-minute drive outside Houston, normally sees ticket sales go down about 40% on a weekend when they don’t have any new movies. Last weekend, they saw a 40% increase, says the theater’s owner, Andrew Thomas. Usually open weekends, Thomas has kept screenings going through the week.

‘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 and — I was going to say catch the bug,’ said Thomas, laughing. ‘Maybe some other turn of phrase.’

“There are just over 300 drive-ins left in the country. They constitute a small, oft-forgotten flicker in today’s movie ecosystem that hardly competes with the megawatt glare of the megaplex and the nation’s 5,500 indoor theaters. But through decades of disruption and change in American life, they have managed to survive. …

“In certain parts of the country, [they’re] one of the only remaining refuges of public entertainment — of getting out the house to do something while still staying inside your car.

“At the Paramount Drive-in near Los Angeles, Forrest and Erin McBride figured a drive-in movie was one of the only ways they could responsibly celebrate their anniversary.

” ‘We were like, what can we do? Everything’s closed,’ said Forrest before a showing of ‘Onward’ on Thursday night. ‘We were like, “Well, a drive-in theater is kind of like a self-quarantined movie date.” ‘…

“Drive-ins aren’t without their own virus concerns. Concessions and restrooms, in particular, still pose issues. All owners interviewed for this article said they were spacing out cars, reworking how customers could order food (sometimes via text messages) and limiting restroom occupancy.

“Chris Curtis, owner of the Blue Moon Drive-in in Guin, Alabama, said he was doing something that has long been anathema to drive-ins: allowing outside food and drink in. ‘In fact, we suggest it,’ reads the Blue Moon’s Facebook page. Like indoor theaters, drive-ins make their money almost entirely by concessions.

“ ‘We’re just trying to pay the power bill and the water bill and get through this, and give the community something to do at a time when there’s not a whole lot to do,’ said Curtis. …

“To keep the Blue Moon uncrowded, Curtis launched online ticketing for the first time. ‘I don’t want people driving from long distances just to see that we’re sold out,’ he said

“There are few movies left for drive-ins to play. For now, they can still screen recent releases like ‘Onward’ and ‘The Hunt,’ but those movies are already available on various digital platforms as studios have funneled their films to homes due to the virus. Earlier this week, all of the nation’s movie chains shuttered following federal guidelines that urged against gatherings of more than 10 people. The studios have cleared out their release calendars into May.

“Those postponements have extended all the way to major summer releases, including Marvel’s ‘Black Widow’ (previously slated for May 1). Eating into spring releases will be hard enough for drive-ins, but summer is when they sell most of their tickets. Owners say that if they manage to remain open in the coming weeks, they could potentially play older films (though those cost almost as much as new releases to play). …

“Drive-ins could also improvise in other ways. Lisa Boaz, who with her husband has operated the Monetta Drive-in in Monetta, South Carolina, since 1999, said they’ve been contacted by churches interested in using the drive-in for Sunday services. Parishioners would listen to sermons from their cars through the drive-in’s FM-radio transmitters. …

“So long as it’s safe, Boaz appreciates the irony that in the year 2020, the best — and in many cases only — way to see a movie outside the house is at the drive-in. The pandemic hasn’t proven the supremacy of streaming as much as it’s shown how indomitable the urge is to spend a night at the movies. …

“Said Boaz, ‘The old ways are the best ways.’ ”

More at AP, here.

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