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Will COVID-19 Let Drive-In Movie Theaters Make a Comeback?

April 20, 2020 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Drive-In Movies Grease

You might have heard that only 7 theaters showed new movies this past weekend. All drive-ins.  

By a show of hands, how many of you have ever been to a drive-in movie theater? Those with their hands raised, has it been in the last five years?

I’m dare say the majority of you have never had the thrill of experiencing what it’s like to park and watch a movie from inside your car. 

It might be time to fix that. 

It looks like the drive-in movie theaters that still exist are doing solid business. And that’s not just in the US but drive-in ticket sales in Germany and South Korea are taking off as well. 

In an article from the Hollywood Reporter, Autokino Essen, one of only two year-round drive-in theaters in Germany, has sold out every screening since the country went into lockdown in early March. EVERY SCREENING.

And we’re not talking the hottest blockbusters either. The other week it sold 500 tickets for Manta Manta. Never heard of it? It’s a German comedy that was a huge hit back in 1991. 

“It doesn’t matter what we show, people just want to get out and watch a movie,” says Frank Peciak, manager of Autokino Essen. “We’re sold out weeks in advance.”

As AMC, Regal, Cinemark and every other major theater chain are closed, drive-in theaters have risen from the ashes to offer people a respite from stay-at-home orders. 

Ocala Drive-In, located in Florida, is one of those theaters showing first-run movies right now and helped last weekend’s top earner at the domestic box office, the indie horror movie Swallow, which earned $1,710. 
Yes. That was the #1 movie. Remember that for trivia night a decade from now. 

Ocala owner John Watzke is committed. In an interview he said, “Anybody that knows me and knows the drive-in knows I don’t close. I’ve had hurricanes come, I’ve stayed open until the power went off and I had no one in the parking lot.”  

Elsewhere in the world, like South Korea, reports are the same. Cine 80, a 170-car theater in Daegu, says ticket sales are up 20 percent for films such as the Judy Garland biopic Judy and the horror title The Turning, according to owner Seong-soo Kim. Jayuro Drive-in, located in a Seoul suburb, saw a 30 percent sales spike. “We’ve managed to maintain [our business] since the outbreak,” says Kim. “People feel the drive-ins are a safer option to enjoy their cultural life.”

As we adjust to a new way of life, drive-ins might be a small light in the clouds. How many of you would support a drive-in theater?

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Drive-In Movies, Steve Gustafson