With the Temporary Closing of Movie Theaters, the Drive-In Sees a Resurgence

So far most outdoor cinemas are protected by local safety standards

Drive-in
The 305 remaining drive-ins across the U.S. may see a boom in business
Thomas Hawk / Flickr Creative Commons
By Kirk Miller / March 20, 2020 11:19 am

While movie theaters are shuttering through the coronavirus outbreak, the box office is at a record low and new release films are going almost straight to home video-on-demand, one forgotten area of the film industry is thriving.

Welcome back to the drive-in theater.

“So, Day Two of home school, we are all cooped up in the house, and this was a way to go out and still be distant from other people but not at our house,” as Brenna Coogle told the Los Angeles Times while at a Lakewood’s Paramount Drive-in screening of Onward with her family.

The Paramount had double their usual sales this past Tuesday, a welcome bit of good news for an industry that’s gone from 4,063 screens in 1958 to just 305 across the country today.

Still, no one is quite sure if drive-ins are the panacea for getting out, being (somewhat) social and seeing a movie in our modern pandemic times; in some states, the drive-ins have still closed. “I don’t think we fit into the gathering category personally because all the gathering places are places where you are confined with a bunch of people,” said Doug Mercille, owner of the Starlite Drive-In in Cadet, Mo. “At the drive-in, you’ve got to be in your own car.”

In the interest of social distancing, some drive-ins are limiting or closing concession stands; the Starlite, meanwhile, plans to go to a text/phone-based ordering system.

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