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Posts Tagged ‘drive-in’

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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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