Drive-In Movie Theaters Are Seeing a Boom in Business Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

As China is slowly starting to recover from the months-long fight against the new Coronavirus, COVID-19, Europe and the U.S. are just getting started.
Drive-in movie theaters are seeing a surge in popularity amid new Coronavirus pandemic 6 photos
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In most territories, non-essential businesses have shuttered, including (car) factories, restaurants and movie theaters. In the U.S., an old and forgotten American tradition is seeing a spike in interest: drive-in movie theaters.

According to the Los Angeles Times, there were 305 drive-in theaters with a total of 549 screens in October last year. In 1999, there were 447 locations and 684 screens, while at the peak of the industry, in the mid ‘50s, there were 4,063 drive-in screens across the country. Of those 305 theaters of the type remaining today, many in California, Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri are seeing double the number of clients these days, when governmental shelter-in-place orders have gone into effect.

People are driven (pun intended) to these businesses after days of self-isolation, looking for a respite from the daily monotony of being cooped up inside. Going to theme parks, regular movie theaters or even malls is no longer an option and you can only stream movies on TV for so long before needing a break. They also feel they’re safe and acting in accordance with official recommendations, since they keep a considerable distance between parked cars and have minimal human contact – or touch surfaces touched by others.

Businesses have also taken extra precautions, in addition to asking drivers to keep a safe distance between cars. Owners have restricted or eliminated concessions stands, and are looking to implement online orders for them. Buying and paying for tickets has also moved online, while the only staff on site are all wearing gloves. Human contact is down to a minimum.

There are doubts as to whether these business comply with CDC mandates that gatherings be limited to 50 people – or as little as 10 in states hit the hardest by the new Coronavirus. One drive-in movie theater owner from Missouri believes they are.

“I don’t think we fit into the gathering category personally because all the gatherings are places where you are confined with a bunch of people. At the drive-in, you’ve got to be in your own car,” Starlite Drive-In in Cadet, Missouri, owner Doug Mercille tells the LA Times. “Where else are [people] going to go right now? It’s nice to be able to open that outdoor environment where they still feel safe and can do stuff with family.”

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About the author: Elena Gorgan
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Elena has been writing for a living since 2006 and, as a journalist, she has put her double major in English and Spanish to good use. She covers automotive and mobility topics like cars and bicycles, and she always knows the shows worth watching on Netflix and friends.
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