The drive-in movie surge: A fleeting diversion?
Don’t tell New York or Pennsylvania, but America’s drive-in movie theaters might be enjoying a rebirth, said Daniel Miller in the Los Angeles Times. Across much of the country, operators of the throwback outdoor cinemas are either opening early for the season or reporting up to twice as many ticket sales, as the coronavirus outbreak has shuttered indoor theaters and other gathering places. After all, “seeing a movie at a drive-in can require little to no human contact, largely because patrons are, of course, confined to their cars during the showing.” But while many of America’s 305 remaining drive-ins have reason to hope for a big summer ahead, said Donovan Russo in CNBC.com, much will depend on social-isolating restrictions. The boom has thus far been limited to a fraction of those 305 theaters. Almost a third of the nation’s total are located in New York, Pennsylvania, and other eastern states that have ordered drive-ins closed.
The luckier operators are meanwhile proceeding with caution, said Alyson Krueger in The New York Times. Some require ticket takers to wear gloves and are introducing phone-only popcorn and snack orders, all delivered by staff to prevent concession-stand crowds. But such precautions may not be enough in the longer run. Austin’s Blue Starlite Drive-In, which was doing so well that its owner opened a second franchise, closed last week after the city adopted a shelter-in-place policy. And one operator in La Grange, Ky., Stephen Sauerbeck, decided to delay opening his theater for the season after personally consulting with the state’s governor. “It’s a responsibility on our side to be as safe as possible,” he said. “I don’t want this to be, ‘We found a loophole in the situation, and we are going to operate an underground business the government is trying to shut down.’” ■