As The Pandemic Forces Theaters To Shut Down, Drive-In Theaters Find Their Time To Shine

Madera Drive-In Madera, CA

Recently cinemas have had the task of having to compete with the emergence of streaming services. With Netflix, Apple TV+ and others putting out original films and the cost of theater admissions rising it’s easy to see why they could have a hard time. Now theaters offer different screens, bars, comfortable seating and assigned seating to attract more people. With theaters getting more high tech, one classic form of theaters seems to be slowly left behind, the drive-ins.

In the United States there are currently about 305 drive-in theaters according to the Los Angeles Times. Together they make up about 549 screens. California currently has the most drive in screens in the country with 44. Drive-in’s offer a nostalgic form of theater where you can pull up with your car to a stall and enjoy a film by either using a provided speaker or your car’s radio. So why is this relevant during this pandemic?


The Los Angeles Times recently did an interview with several owners of drive-ins from different states that have been able to remain open during the coronavirus pandemic. With theaters closing across the United States, many of them have reported an increase in business in the past few days.

Due to social distancing that has been advised and sometimes mandated by the federal, state and local governments, gathering have been lowered to a recommended 10 people. For drive-in’s that not a problem as you only really have to interact with people in your car. The only interaction you have to have outside of your car would be with the drive-in employee selling you a ticket. But that is no different than picking up food at a drive-thru.

Of course some of these still had to close due to the way ordinances to fight the spread of coronavirus were written. These are all different city to city. For some of them that are still open, they are doing what they can to take extra precautions. For example, some are closing or limiting their concession stands or not parking cars directly next to each other.


Although many of these have seen a rise in customers, they still will have tough challenges ahead even if they are able to remain open. The biggest problem is that with theaters closed, studios are choosing to delay their releases or rush them out to digital. Meaning that drive-in theaters are left with nothing new to show. To combat this some owners are considering bringing in some older family films.

This is an interesting loop hole that I had not thought of. Technically you’d only be gathering with the ones in your car and it would fall below the number recommended. Currently living in a world that if full or restrictions, if it’s allowed in your area this would be an fun thing to do out of the house with the immediate family. I am lucky enough to live in a City that still has a drive-in theater. I will have to follow up to see if they are still thinking of opening for the season or if they are going to remain closed.

Would you visit a drive-in theater if it was open in your area during this pandemic? Let us know in the comment section below!

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Source: The Los Angeles Times

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