With every movie theater closed in America because of the deadly Co-Vid-19 outbreak, a bit of 1950s style Americana is back in vogue. People are heading back to drive-in theaters, where they can watch a double feature from the comfort and socially distanced safety of their cars. Everyone stuck in quarantine can now enjoy blockbusters, dramas, comedies, and creature features again. And enjoy a bit of welcome nostalgia to boot.
Watch at almost any teen-based 1950s film and what do you see? Soda shops… And drive in theaters where kids make out in their rides, and families order popcorn and hamburgers from mobile waitresses who bring food right to their window.
Drive Ins are such a great idea right now! The NY Times, noting the phenomenon, quoted one happy movie goer: ““Nobody is near us, and we can actually enjoy the movie without feeling that paranoia where something like somebody coughing would have us instantly move.”
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Grease is the Word, Again
Think about the mega-popular 80s flick Grease that glorified the 50s era and gave us earworm anthems like Summer Nights and You’re The One That I Want, plus sad breakup songs that are so on the nose for this article: Stranded At The Drive-In. I know all the words to the soundtrack. You know you do too, and now those tunes are stuck in your head. (You’re welcome.)
Drive-Ins are Back
Seems quaint now. You’ve surely seen long-abandoned drive in theaters, moldering in weed-choked back lots all across middle America. But now, some of these places are the hip new/old thing. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were all bought up, refurbished, and given a new life for people wanting relief from the stress of the 2020 global pandemic.
In fact, if AMC is listening (rumor has it they are filing for bankruptcy), they might want to buy up (or even build anew), car-based large-screen theaters around the country. Hire waitresses and give them roller skates, create a 1950s-themed menu WITH BEER, and presto! Movie-going is a thing again.
I’m getting happy just thinking about this. Think of the possibilities for Date Night, or Family Night! You can now get out of the house and do something totally fun in a new setting that decidedly isn’t your living room.
Drive In Theaters — Not Just For Movies Anymore
In fact, The New York Times covered an Easter Service at a drive in last week. The lot was full. Cars packed with Christian families could actually enjoy gathering in total safety and ease, listening to inspiring sermons to commemorate a most holy day.
Think of the possibilities. San Diego Comic Con could be held at a Drive-In theater (at least the programs for Hall H, but hey, no lines!).
Government rallies could now happen in the wake of our big election year.
If things continue this way (a vaccine is probably 18 months off, best case scenario), next year we can have Mardi Gras again at drive-ins all over the hard-hit hot zone of Louisiana. Dress up and boogie down in hot rod convertible rental cars (I foresee a resurgence in those too).
Why Drive In Theaters Work in a Pandemic World
Really, Zoom and Netflix Watch Parties are cool and all for sharing organized events, right? But people are sick of their homes by now. And it’s only getting harder to handle. There’s nothing left to organize in your pantry and you’ve decluttered the garage.
Getting out in public is fun — and necessary for the social animals we are. But we still have to be responsible. We have to help flatten the curve and keep our asymptomatic viral droplets away from others. We need to ensure we don’t touch public surfaces and our own faces (are you still touching your face?).
Now, personal automobiles are our sanitized sanctuaries.
Really, the possibilities for using drive-in theater settings is endless. But here at RunPee, we’re just damn excited that people can see movies again. And we’ll provide all the Peetimes you need, ensuring you won’t miss the best scenes, or extra scenes threaded into the credits.
Really, people are just “thrilled to have something to do,” says an article about the drive-in resurgence from a happy drive-in theater owner in the the Atlas Obscura.
Amen to that.
PS: Here’s a fun list of drive-in theater scenes in movies from the IMDb. Enjoy!
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Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)
Join the conversation
Rob Williams Administrator
As a child growing up in the U.K. my experience of the drive in cinema came from seeing them on American films and TV shows. Over here it wasn’t an automatic assumption that there would be a family car (I was in my teens before we got our first car and that would have been in the 70s) let alone a second or third one so there probably wouldn’t have been the market for it here but, if I’m honest, I don’t actually know.
The other drawback for the U.K. drive in is the typical U.K. car… we tend towards smaller, less luxurious vehicles. Nobody over here feels the need to drive 200 miles to pick up a pizza! So we tend to have seats that are less like an armchair and more like a dining chair.
What I do know is that there are some now open over here; not many, probably numbering just into double figures but one is fairly local to me! In fact it it is closer than my regular cinema so I thought I’d check it out.
Guess what… it’s closed due to COVID-19!
LOVE Drive in theaters and there is still a big one here in Vegas, the bad thing is it is not in a great part of town
Dan Gardner Administrator
I think land is too expensive to put a drive-in theater in a good neighborhood.