The Return of the Drive-In Wins Over Movie Fans

Drive-in theaters are making a comeback as families look for a safe alternative to traditional indoor movie theaters, which remain closed in much of the country. A select few outdoor theaters remained in operation over decades during the rise of mall culture. They’re joined by a wave of new drive-in movie venues popping up all over the country. A large screen propped up in an empty parking lot has never seemed so welcoming to young and old alike. We’re all looking for somewhere to go and something to do.

Local small business owners who shut down traditional indoor movie operations to comply with Covid-19 social distancing have been reopening old drive-ins or setting up make-shift theaters in parking lots to recoup lost income. Many owners are inspired by the question “what can we do to keep our name out there and bring the community together?”

Old and New Drive-ins Rely on Family Favorites

Patrons are flocking to new drive-in theaters in states like Iowa, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, while owners of drive-ins in California, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri say they are mindful of social distancing. Seeing a movie at a drive-in can offer limited human contact since customers are required to stay in their cars during the showing.

Drive-ins draw customers by featuring older, family-favorite movies that charm kids and parents alike. A Queens, NY diner operations manager launched a drive-in to raise money for charity by showing classics like The Sandlot, Grease, Dirty Dancing and The Greatest Showman. In Long Island, NY, an adventure park launched a series featuring Toy Story, Cheaper By the Dozen, and Dr. Doolittle along with screenings of Night at the Museum and The Sandlot. A Miami live events production company partnered with an indoor recreational complex to use its massive parking lot as a drive-in for showing Sonic the Hedgehog and the original Jurassic Park.

Walmart Opens Pop-Ups, Tribeca Features Drive-In Series

These entrepreneurs are joined by two American icons combining forces to open more outdoor theaters across the country for a limited run of hit movies. In August, Walmart will begin drive-in pop-ups at 160 of its store parking lots. The big box chain is partnering with the Robert De Niro-backed media company Tribeca Enterprises to program films. Walmart will offer curbside pickup for treats and food at its adjacent physical stores. More than 300 showings are slated for the event, which will run until November. Locations and movie titles will be available soon on the Walmart Drive-In website (click here).

“This family-friendly night will include hit movies, special appearances from filmmakers and celebrities, and concessions delivered right to customer vehicles,” Walmart said in a press release.

Tribeca Enterprises has also announced a new “Tribeca Drive-In” series (click here), rolling out in July at locations in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Seattle, and Arlington, Texas. “The Tribeca Drive-In series is a tribute to movies and the shared experience of watching them, even if from our cars,” DeNiro said in a statement. Part of the programming’s proceeds will go to Black Lives Matter.

How to Find a Local Drive-In

An Internet search will turn up locations of drive-in movie theaters near you. One source of information is (click here). This website offers a database of outdoor theaters across the country, along with advice on how to safely enjoy the drive-in experience.

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