The Repopularizing of the Drive-In Theater Marks a Return to Simpler Times

We’re in an era of social distancing. Our current coronavirus quarantine situation is the equivalent of an extrovert’s kryptonite and an introvert’s wet dream. There aren’t too many places in the community where large groups of people can still go; however, there is one: the drive-in theater

As of right now, there are around 300 active drive-ins in America. Some of those drive-ins aren’t open yet due to the cold and others have delayed their openings thanks to COVID-19. In the 1950s, there were over 4,000, many of which still stand today. In the wake of what is essentially the complete collapse of the entertainment industry, a lot of drive-ins could rise from the ashes.

Traditional movie theaters like Regal, Showcase, AMC, Cinemark, and Alamo Drafthouse have shut their doors (although Showcase hopes to reopen in April). This marks the first time movie theaters have been closed indefinitely well, ever. The 2020 box office is set to lose billions; big releases are being pushed back and productions are coming to a halt because of the coronavirus. A lot of studios are turning to streaming services to release their content, putting big screens all around the world in danger. The National Association of Theatre Owners has gone as far as asking Congress for a bailout; rent is due whether or not popcorn and tickets are sold. 

According to Deadline, drive-in movie theaters are prospering. Ones like the Paramount in Los Angeles and the Sacramento 6 Drive-In saw ticket sales double last week. Drive-in owners in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri have also reported increased traffic. The regular box office is down 97 percent, the biggest chunk of current ticket sales are coming from what once was considered archaic. A bunch of people, separated by their vehicles, are driving out into the middle of nowhere and enjoying what should be a straight-to-DVD Vin Diesel movie. 

People have been going to drive-ins since polio and the measles; parking in fields since Charlton Heston parted the Red Sea. Going to a drive-in is the manifestation of the feeling we all have; of being so close to everyone, yet so far. And for now, it’s the only way we’re going to be able to enjoy big-screen entertainment. Like it or not, drive-ins are here to stay.

Cover Photo: J. R. Eyerman (Getty Images)

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