Will Drive-In Theaters Make a Comeback This Summer?

Published on May 7, 2020

Right now, drive-ins are all that’s driving the box-office. Across the country, quite a few venues are open for moviegoers. With theaters closed, drive-ins are the only place to see a rare new release in public. While drive-ins had become something of a relic of the past, they may start to become more popular and common in the future due to the coronavirus. 

The Return of Drive-In Theaters

Drive-in theaters are usually a delightful experience. It’s not the best way to experience a movie for the first time, no, but as a communal experience, it’s fantastic. Bring all the snacks and drinks you want and enjoy the old-fashioned nature of the experience. You don’t have to deal with people texting or talking during a movie in front or behind you, unless you’re with a rude or talkative bunch. You’re in control of the sound, to a degree. More often than not, drive-in theaters provide double bills as well. It’s a good deal and experience. 

How One Drive-In Theater is Doing it Right

Some drive-in theaters across the country have seen a spike in business, such as Tibbs Drive-In in Indianapolis. In an interview with WTHR, Jon Parkin, the co-owner of Tibbs Drive-In Theatre, explained how drive-ins are adjusting to the current pandemic: 

“It’s kinda blending nostalgia with modern technology, because we broadcast the sound into your car with an FM signal so you can adjust the volume. It’s a different way to see a movie, but every bit as fulfilling. We are limiting our capacity per the state guidelines to 50%. Masking and gloving all of our employees. We’ve closed the concession stand except for the use of bathrooms, which we are severely limiting as well.”

One problem is, there’s no real new major releases to show at these drive-ins. All of the major studios are delaying their movies or dropping them on VOD. The Drive-ins will show older movies, as Street Food Cinema will.

Street Food Cinema

Street Food Cinema is a great event in Los Angeles. Starting in the summer and lasting until the fall, the outdoor screening series draws decent-sized crowds and excellent food trucks. It’s a more low-key, relaxed version of the outdoor screenings at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Unlike the famous cemetery screenings, the makers behind Street Food Cinema can adjust their screening plans, which they are. 

This summer Street Food Cinema will switch to drive-in settings. They’ll continue to screen old and new classics for the public. For anyone who lives in Los Angeles and wants to safely enjoy a movie with a partner or pal, it’s a nice piece of news. Street Food Cinema has yet to announce their schedule, but will unveil their plans soon for switching from an outdoor screening service to a drive-in screening service.

Tribeca Drive-In Series

In bigger news, Tribeca has joined forces with IMAX and AT&T to start the Tribeca Drive-In series this summer. In towns and major cities across the country, Tribecca will screen movies in high-def IMAX for moviegoers. On June 25th, Tribeca will launch the screening series and show new, classic, and indie films. Going a few steps further, they’ll screen sporting events as well. In a statement, Tribeca Enterprises and Tribeca Film Festival co-founder and CEO, Jane Rosenthal, said the following (via Indiewire):

“It’s in our DNA to bring people together through the arts, showing strength and resiliency when the world needs it the most. At a time when people are eager to connect and convene again after months-long social distancing, we’re taking the spirit of Tribeca around the country by creating a safe environment where audiences can come together and enjoy the sense of connection found by going to the movies.

Perhaps now more than ever, Americans are craving opportunities to come together, enjoy storytelling and creativity as a community, and recapture the shared cultural experiences that are part of our national identity,” IMAX CEO Rich Gelfond added in a statement. “We’re proud to partner with Tribeca Enterprises and AT&T to develop this innovative program, shed a little light in this challenging time, and remind people of the magic of going to the movies as we look forward to reopening theatres around the world.”

Jack Giroux is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in Los Angeles, he is an entertainment journalist who's previously written for Thrillist, Slash Film, Film School Rejects, and The Film Stage.

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