Drive-In Theater
Credit: David Clode @davidclode |
An abandoned drive-in theater in Cairns, Australia.

Going to the drive-in during COVID-19

Drive-ins have seen something of a revival in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic since it's a relatively safe way to attend a big-screen showing of a movie.

As COVID-19 continues to persist and change everyone’s daily lives, many establishments have had to make transitions in order to accommodate the current situation. 

One of the businesses that has been negatively impacted by the virus has been movie theaters. With consistent movie delays and theaters shutting their doors as streaming takes over, movie theaters have been threatened by risks of unprecedented financial losses. However, there has been one outlet that has experienced a revival due to the virus: drive-in theaters.

The Aut-O-Rama Drive-In Theater is a drive-in movie theater located in North Ridgeville. It has been open since 1965 and has two screens. Each screen plays two movies for the price of $10 per person. 

Drive-in theaters were a regular hotspot for people throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s, but have steadily declined during the past 30 years as theaters continued to take their custom.

But with the coronavirus shutting down movie theaters, people wanting to see movies on the big screen have rediscovered their local drive-in.

This proved especially true for the Aut-O-Rama Drive-In as it became the fifth highest grossing movie theater in terms of U.S. box office dollars during the weekend of June 19. 

“It’s hard not to see the current advantages drive-ins provide,” said Andrew Sperhac, a film student at Cleveland State University. “I hope people continue to choose them and help keep those businesses alive.” 

The theater and its employees have taken steps to ensure public safety during the pandemic. Face masks are required at the concessions stands and bathrooms. Instead of interacting with someone when buying a ticket, you have to buy them online. Large crowds and groups are not permitted. Instead of operating at maximum capacity, the owners have ensured 50% capacity to abide by the 6-feet social distancing protocol.

The drive-in has also been trying some new things. In fall 2020, they hosted concert and stand-up events for the first time. The Aut-O-Rama has hosted shows starring famous comedians Hannibal Burgess and Bert Kreischer, where attendees can watch the performers from the safety of their cars. 

For the month of October, they embraced the holiday of Halloween, boasting spooky movies on each screen. Throughout the month, they played family movies like "Hotel Transylvania," "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "Hocus Pocus" to adult-horror films like "Nightmare on Elm Street," "It" and "Halloween." 

“Drive-ins are a more personalized way of watching a movie,” CSU student Joshua Saxton said. “But it still gives you that feeling of ‘going to the theater'.”

As the world continues to change and people find new elements of stress, it is refreshing to be able to still go out to the theater and enjoy a movie under the stars. In addition to the Aut-O-Rama Drive-In, there are the Midway, Mayfield Road and Blue Sky Drive-In. 

Be safe and go out to support your local drive-in theater.