The coronavirus is bringing drive-in movie theaters back - Axios

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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Drive-in movie theaters, the symbol of a bygone era before cellphones and constant distraction, are suddenly reemerging as a popular form of entertainment during the coronavirus crisis.

Why it matters: Indoor movie theaters are closed, but people still crave entertainment and a chance to get out of their houses. Watching a movie from the safety of a car is the next best thing.

Driving the news: Ahead of the July 4th weekend, Walmart announced a partnership with Tribeca Enterprises, which hosts the annual Tribeca Film Festival, to convert 160 store locations into makeshift drive-in movie theaters.

  • Starting in August, America's biggest retailer says it will be putting on "safe, socially distanced drive-in events at Walmart Supercenters across America."
  • The move comes shortly after Tribeca announced its own nationwide drive-in summer movie series, which will include screenings of timeless classics like"'Jaws" and "Apollo 13" at drive-in theaters and other venues in Los Angeles, New York and other cities nationwide.
  • Walmart will air films that coincide with the Tribeca summer series lineup.
  • The screenings will feature appearances from stars as well as concessions delivered to customer vehicles, per The Hollywood Reporter.

Catch up quick: At its peak, the drive-in industry boasted more than 4,000 theaters nationwide in the 1950s. Now, however, there aren't a lot of easily accessible drive-ins.

  • Before makeshift theaters started popping up around the country at arenas and sports venues, there were only 305 drive-in sites in the country, with most of them concentrated in New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio and California.
  • Many new drive-in pop-ups are still located in or around big cities at arenas.

The big picture: The coronavirus pandemic has completely upended the theater industry, forcing most major exhibitors like AMC, Regal and Cinemark to shut down for many months.

  • They continue to push back re-opening dates as Hollywood blockbusters continue to get postponed due to the pandemic.

Be smart: Drive-in theaters, like indoor theaters, still make the majority of their money off of concessions. While many drive-ins will offer concessions, consumers will likely be weighing the transactional risk of buying snacks from a vendor versus packing their own in the car.

What's next: It's not just the movie industry. Drive-in concerts are also all the rage during the coronavirus era.

  • Live Nation, the event promotion and venue company, announced its first-ever drive-in concert series in the U.S. for July.

Go deeper: Movie theaters face uncertain future as country reopens

Go deeper

Movie industry in shambles for foreseeable future

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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Driving the news: Cineworld, the parent company of Regal Cinemas, on Monday said it would be temporarily closing all of its 663 theaters in the U.S. and the U.K. In doing so, it cited that movie studios weren't sending enough of its biggest movies to theaters to lure consumers. More movie delays announced Monday showcase their point.

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