Americans Are Returning to Drive-In Movie Theaters to Escape Coronavirus Mayhem

Those who have never been to a retro outdoor cinema are now getting their first taste from the safety of their car.

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The coronavirus pandemic has, as you know, ruined essentially all of our favorite activities for the foreseeable future—concerts, sporting events, you name it. With states strengthening restrictions from coast to coast and social distancing becoming a must if we want any chance of beating this nasty virus, our options for entertainment seem limited. However, the old-school drive-in movie theater has taken on a new allure amid this dystopian situation, and it might be the best way to kick that cabin fever and re-discover one of our nation's most treasured pastimes.

The COVID-19 outbreak has undoubtedly forced the public theater industry to adjust and, with this crucial time of stay-to-yourself in full force, classic drive-ins are finding an influx of demand has fallen in their lap. People who have never been are now visiting their local theaters that just so happen to be quarantine-friendly.

“Obviously this isn’t the way you’d want it to occur, but I’m excited for the idea that there may be a new generation of people that will get to experience going to a drive-in theater and—I was going to say catch the bug,” said Andrew Thomas, the owner of Showboat Drive-In Theater in Hockley, Texas to the Associated Press. “Maybe some other turn of phrase.”

Still, there are only 300 or so drive-ins left across the country, and not all are open just yet. You can blame that on the lack of public turnout or the simple fact that it's truly a seasonal business. The Associated Press explains that five to 10 percent are currently playing films from night to night, though those that are have made special exceptions to the rules.

Namely, they're allowing outside food and drink. Theaters like Guin, Alabama's Blue Moon Drive-In are even encouraging the act that has always been considered taboo, though you can still have that buttered popcorn delicacy you crave if you order online. The same goes for ticketing, with virtual transactions keeping physical contact to a minimum. Likewise, it prevents people from turning out and waiting in line only to watch every parking space be filled before they get their turn.

It's important to remember that the confines of your car may not be enough to keep you safe—or in compliance with your state's restrictions. California Governor Gavin Newsom notably issued a total stay-at-home lockdown on Thursday, keeping 40 million residents from venturing into public for anything other than absolute essentials. Others could be headed in the same direction, though for now, the drive-in is experiencing a much-needed resurgence.

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