- Drive-in movies, once popular in the 1950s and '60s, are making a comeback due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- Many are operating at 50% capacity, giving out face masks, and enacting social distancing measures.
- Traditional indoor theaters are still shuttered during lockdown.
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There used to be thousands of drive-in movie theaters across the US. Now, according to the United Drive-in Theatre Owners Association, there are only 305 still in operation. But in 2020, business is booming.
A fixture of the 1950s and '60s, drive-in movies have made a comeback during the coronavirus pandemic. Since outdoor spaces are generally less risky, and each group can remain in their own car, drive-in movies have been allowed to open while traditional indoor theaters are still shuttered.
Many aspects of the drive-in experience have changed since they first became popular decades ago. Here's how drive-in movies have changed over the years.
A sales manager named Richard Hollingshead opened the first drive-in movie theater in 1933.
After Hollingshead's mother complained about uncomfortable theater seats, he came up with the idea for a cozier movie-watching experience. He opened his first drive-in theater in 1933.
In the old days, signs at drive-in theaters advertised movie showings.
The outdoor theaters operated rain or shine.
Now, signs warn about the dangers of COVID-19.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo allowed drive-ins and other "low-risk" outdoor businesses to reopen on May 15 during the COVID-19 outbreak. The Warwick Drive-In in Warwick, New York, is operating at half its capacity to allow for social distancing between cars.
Concessions used to be brought to individual cars during screenings.
Carhops served trays of food and drinks to guests in their cars.
During the pandemic, staff are giving out face masks, instead.
Face coverings help slow the spread of the virus.
Some drive-in theaters even featured full-service restaurants.
The All-Weather Drive-In in Copiague, New York, was one of the largest drive-in theaters. In addition to 2,500 parking spots, it also featured a playground for kids and a full-service restaurant, according to History.com.
At drive-in theaters today, concessions can be purchased at a stand from a safe distance.
Signs remind movie-goers that face masks and social distancing practices are required.
In the heyday of drive-in movies, young couples enjoyed the privacy of watching a film from their car.
It's much easier to steal a kiss in a car than in a crowded movie theater.
With face masks on, PDA becomes a little more difficult.
Coming up with safe date ideas during the pandemic can be challenging.
At their essence, drive-in movies haven't changed that much.
They were a popular family-friendly activity.
Families can still enjoy films from the front seats of their cars.
With drive-in theaters operating at 50% capacity to allow for social distancing, the view of the screen is even better.
Their popularity waned as land costs increased and at-home movies became the norm, but they're experiencing a renaissance in 2020.
There are now only 305 drive-in theaters left in the US.
Perhaps drive-in movies will remain a favorite even after it's safe to return to regular indoor theaters.
It's also possible that some movie theaters won't survive the financial losses incurred during lockdown.