What better way to go to the movies and still practice social distancing? The only time that a person would need to gather in a group with others would be when it comes to making their way to the concession stand, and being as cars aren’t about to be searched at the drive-in, most people likely wouldn’t even worry about concession snacks since they could bring a cooler full of their own items. It’s hard to believe, but there are still several drive-in movie theaters operating in the US at this point and as Julius Young of Fox News and many others have announced, such theaters are now experiencing their best ticket sales ever since the pandemic has shut down just about every other theater in the country. It’s a bit opportunistic and there are reasons why regular theaters have an advantage over drive-in’s, but at this point it’s enough to realize that people can still go to the movies if they can find the nearest drive-in. It’s true that some of them are pretty far out, and the view isn’t always bound to be the best depending on where a person is sitting in the car, but it’s still something, a night out with a date or the family to watch a movie you’ve been wanting to see. Whether it’s enough for some studios to consider releasing their titles or not is hard to say though, since Disney and a few others might not figure that it’s worth the small amount of money that will come as a result.
There are definite advantages to regular theaters as I was saying, and one of them is that a closed-in theater offers a slightly better view, doesn’t force people to remain in an enclosed space, and there’s no need for an external or alternate source to hear the movie, as blasting the theater-grade sound of a big screen production across the neighboring landscape isn’t exactly a good business practice. Plus, inclement weather is another thing that regular theaters don’t have to worry about unless that weather is so severe that people can’t make it in the first place. A drive-in experience can unfortunately be ruined by a downpour since not only is it bound to force a person to keep their car running for a couple of hours with the windshield wipers providing unwanted commentary as they thump back and forth across one’s view, but rain might actually cause the drive-in to shut down if it becomes too forceful. In anything other than the worst of weather most drive-ins will stay open, but the experience is enough to make some people wish for a traditional theater experience.
A lot of us can probably still remember the days when we would head out with the family in the old war wagon to the drive-in to enjoy the latest release that had just come out. We’d buy or bring our snacks, accept the huge speaker that would allow us to hear the movie and prop it in the window, and settle back and just enjoy. Not too much has changed, as drive-ins, some of them at least, will now sell food vouchers that will allow a person to bring in their own goodies and have mostly switched from the speakers to being available on an FM broadcast that will key your radio into the movie. It might not be perfect and it might not be what people expect when they go to the movies, but drive-ins have one big up on the traditional theaters: they’re still open. It’s hard to spread the coronavirus if you purchase a voucher so that you can bring your own food, and the vouchers in turn help the theater stay in business since like most theaters they’re not making much from the ticket sales and need that concession money. Even $10 a car to bring your own food is a lot cheaper than the traditional theater these days, as the concessions alone tend to give people a lot of grief since buying for more than one person can easily soak up $30 or more depending on what’s purchased.
Unfortunately, as Adam Epstein of Quartz noted years ago, there are very few drive-in theaters left as they’ve become a thing of the past that are more of a nostalgic luxury than a necessity for many people. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest I can recall a few of them that used to exist in and around my neighborhood and can still remember where they used to stand. Thinking about such things tends to make a lot of us nostalgic for the past, but at the very least we still have a few of them, and it could be that there’s one not too far away from you that might still be in operation. It’s better than nothing, and it’s an experience that most people should enjoy at least once in life if they have the chance.