As businesses begin to open up due to the ever-present Coronavirus Pandemic, many places continue to stay closed due to the restricted social distance requirements. One such industry that still faces constant struggle is the movie theater industry, where the close proximity indoors has an increased risk of spreading the virus. Many films have been forced to postpone their releases in order to make a financial gain, such as “Black Widow,” while other movies have instead been released on streaming platforms. However, all is not lost, with precautions in place, as Drive-in movie theaters have seen a major uptick in popularity.
These theaters have major advantages that not only protect the public, but also provide enjoyment in a time of fear and the unknown. First off, these theaters allow for and are seemingly made for individuals to social distance. When visiting these sites, you stay in your car for the entirety of the movie, meaning there is no risk of interacting with someone who potentially has the virus. You can feel safe for the first time in months at a drive-in. In terms of entertainment, most drive-in theaters show classic films for all ages, many times even a double feature to appeal to the crowd that comes from farther away. People can once again look forward to their movie night, and not just another one in front of the television.
In a time where we must adapt to the new normal, drive-in theaters not only maintain an experience that seems somewhat normal, but also allows for a sense of bringing nostalgia to present. According to AARP, the first drive-in theater was created in 1933 and the trend reached its peak in 1958 with 4,063 theaters around the country. Many members of the older generations grew up on the drive-in theater, yet in recent years “drive-in theaters have existed mainly as an entertainment novelty” according to Bloombergnews. This novelty aspect deems true from my own experience in the past; I’ve always viewed these theaters as a flashback to the past, a place where all teenagers hung after school. As of October 2019, there were only 305 drive-ins left in the United States.
Many companies are jumping on the drive-in band wagon, in addition to the various smaller theaters reopening around the country. Most recently, on July first Walmart announced that select Walmart stores would be partnering with Tribeca to start up a drive-in theater, featuring movie premieres, and car-side concession services. These showings will begin in August and more details will be released at a later date. USA Today provides a whole, extended list of the new drive-in theaters around the country.
Within the New York City area, there are various options so that no one needs to travel too far to see their favorite film. The Warwick Theater in Warwick, New York has been one of the 305 open theaters that people had come far and wide to see for years. This is the theater that everyone from my area would drive to, despite the hour 15 minute drive.
While there has been a drive-in theater in a parking lot of a diner in Queens, as well as the waterfront in Brooklyn, Tribeca Enterprises is also planning on launching pop-up drive-in theaters. These pop-ups will occur every weekend from July 2nd to August 2nd including locations at Orchard Beach in the Bronx and Nickerson Beach in Nassau County. Orchard Beach is special in the fact that all screenings will be completely free. In New Jersey, Paramus on June 17th approved of two drive-in theaters at the Garden State Plaza and near Paramus Park. The theater at the Garden State Plaza has a rich history as one of the last of the state’s drive-in theaters, the Paramus Drive-In, was demolished in the 1980s, eventually becoming the parking lot to mall complex.
While the Coronavirus pandemic has removed us from our normal activities, the nostalgic drive-in movie theater revamp is bringing a sense of normalcy to a moment of unknown. Drive-in theaters have become a lost art in our day and age; however, at this moment, we are able to go back to the basics and enjoy the parts of life that we often overlook. It might be hard to find enjoyment and entertainment in a safe environment during this time, but drive-in theaters are allowing people all over the country to enjoy movie night from the comfort of their car outdoors, under the stars instead of at home.