The drive-in movie theater has returned! Well, for a time, at least. While there were very few positives to the coronavirus pandemic, there are one or two changes we would like to bring into the post-pandemic world. The drive-in theater is undoubtedly one of them! However, will the retro experience continue to grow after the pandemic? Let's find out...
Drive-In Movie Theaters Return
Its been nearly a hundred years since the first drive-in theater opened back in 1933. Sadly, since the drive-in movie had its peak in 1958, the number of drive-ins has slowly dwindled over time. Once upon a time, nearly 4,100 drive-in theaters operated across the United States. Now, there are only 305 left. Today there are even five states that have no drive-ins whatsoever: Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Louisiana, and North Dakota.
However, that all might change soon enough! The coronavirus pandemic caused everyone around the world to change their day-to-day behavior. Still, we cannot deny our desire for entertainment. So, as regular movie theaters closed down due to lockdowns and temporary health emergency laws, the number of drive-in attendees skyrocketed! After all, drive-in theaters have social distancing built into them! Everyone sits in their own cars, only with people they feel safe with!
"I like the concept of drive-ins as a way to phase in getting back to normal," says Kenneth Koncilja, M.D., a geriatric specialist from Ohio, told AARP. "If you've got to stay in a contained space that's viral free, that could be your car. And if you have larger outside zones, like 30 to 60 feet, I really like that, too."
But now a new question remains: will drive-ins remain as cases die down, vaccination rates go up, and regular movie theaters reopen? Or is this the final death cry of an old-fashioned way of watching movies?
Will Drive-In Theaters Remain?
Most drive-ins throughout the United States saw a nearly 50%, or more, increase over the past few years. "It was a lot busier than we expected last year," Jay Longworth, co-owner of the Moonlight Movies Drive-In Theatre in Pennsylvania, told MSN. "There's no question that the pandemic … it made it even more popular." On a typical night pre-pandemic, the Moonlight would average around 30 cars a screen. Now it's averaging 70! But will it stay that way?
Longworth certainly thinks so! "We had quite a few that were first-time comers to a drive-in, that's for sure," he said. "(When) you talk to them throughout the evening, a lot of them say, 'Oh yeah, we'll definitely be back,' so that's good news." Legendary drive-in movie critic Joe Bob Briggs agrees! While watching movies at home via streaming can be fun, nothing beats watching one underneath the stars, Briggs says.
"Nobody wants to watch a movie alone, and the whole cultural zeitgeist is moving toward each piece of "content" being viewed by a single person, at a single time and place, watching on his "device"—in other words, pretty much the opposite of what made the film industry great. Films are designed for group viewing," Briggs explained. "The drive-in was already making a comeback and then several states shut 'em down as "non-essential businesses." Leave it to government entities to ALWAYS regard the arts as "non-essential." The drive-ins will definitely thrive this year."