Drive-in theater making a comeback

New York (CNN Business)Getting out of the house to enjoy dinner and a movie has been no simple task since coronavirus spread throughout the US, but some business owners have found an innovative solution to the problem — drive in theaters.

The outdoor cinema venues have been popping up all over the country in recent weeks. Local small business owners who have been forced to shut down operations to comply with Covid-19-related social distancing mandates have been reopening old drive-ins or building make-shift theaters in parking lots and showing old movies to customers to make up for lost income.
Miami business owner Eddie Bernal, 32, recently launched his own temporary drive-in theater operation, Carflix Cinemas, after government orders led to clients canceling bookings with his live event company, Aver Productions.

    Bernal’s business, which has its own 36 foot LED movie screen, partnered with owners of the local Dezerland Park indoor recreational complex to setup a drive-in in the massive parking lot outside Dezerland’s facility in North Miami.

      “As soon as the whole pandemic news started, we started trying to figure out what the future holds for us,” Bernal told CNN Business on Friday. “As we saw business declining, we started coming up with more ideas to generate revenue. This was one of the ideas presented by our staff, so we pursued it.”

      Bernal’s said his new business is showing Sonic the Hedghog at 5 p.m. and the original Jurassic Park at 8 p.m. to sold out drive-in crowds on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. He said the parking lot his company is using holds 175 vehicles and customers desperate to stop sheltering in place spent $30 per automobile to purchase all available tickets online within hours of them going on sale earlier this week.

      Brings, a local rock band, plays a live concert at a drive-in cinema in Cologne, Germany, on April 17. <a href="" target="_blank">According to Euronews,</a> the concert was open to 250 vehicles.

      A veterinary technician vaccinates Cohiba, Sasha Cardenti's dog, at a drive-thru clinic in Mission Viejo, California, on June 23.

      People watch a showing of "Trolls World Tour" at the Four Brothers Drive-In movie theater in Amenia, New York, on May 15.

      From left, minister Ismael Fletcher, Monsignor Jose Emilio Cummins and minister Eva Pilar Garcia wait in front of a parish in San Juan, Puerto Rico, during a drive-thru communion on March 21.

      Charbel Abdo Habib and his wife, Rana El-hachem, raise their hands as Federal Magistrate Judge Patricia Morris swears them in during <a href="" target="_blank">a drive-thru naturalization ceremony</a> in Detroit on June 17.

      Bratri v tricku performs at the <a href="" target="_blank">Art Parking</a> drive-in festival in Prague, Czech Republic, on April 24. The festival, created partly in response to the coronavirus outbreak, will continue until June 30.

      Go-go dancers perform in the Lucky Devil Lounge parking lot while customers wait in their cars in Portland, Oregon, on April 17. "After first offering food delivery, the Lucky Devil Lounge has started a second creative venture: food pickup via a drive-thru strip club," <a href="" target="_blank">wrote Samantha Swindler of The Oregonian/OregonLive.</a> "Four dancers, in short shorts and pasties, perform under cover of an outdoor tent in the club parking lot, while customers wait for their orders in their cars."

      The Rev. Scott Holmer offers a drive-thru confessional March 20 in the parking lot of St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Church in Bowie, Maryland. Holmer sits 6 feet away from cars as people pull up to talk to him.

      Staff members at the Castle Rock Brewery in Nottingham, England, operate a drive-thru beer station on April 4.

      Twins Abby and Austin Angel get sprayed with Silly String at <a href="" target="_blank">their drive-thru graduation party</a> in Knoxville, Tennessee, on April 26. They had just graduated from high school.

      An eland antelope and a camel are fed by zoological director Markus Koechling at Safariland Stukenbrock, a zoo in Schloss Holte-Stukenbrock, Germany, on April 21. Safariland Stukenbrock is the first zoo in Germany that was allowed to reopen with a special permit. It offers a drive-thru safari for some of its open-air enclosures.

      A "stay in your vehicle" sign is pictured in Fawn Township, Pennsylvania, as cars line up for the <a href="" target="_blank">Maple Lawn Farms drive-thru strawberry festival</a> on April 26.

      City employee Tatiana Fernandez distributes unemployment forms outside the John F. Kennedy Library in Hialeah, Florida, on April 7.

      People attend a <a href="" target="_blank">funeral for Tom Minh Nguyen</a> in Muhlenberg Township, Pennsylvania, on April 16. There was a drive-up viewing so mourners could pay their respects without getting out of their cars. Only family members stood next to the grave. Everyone else could listen to the audio through their car radios.

      Cars sit at a newly opened drive-in cinema in Dortmund, Germany, on April 17. It's in front of a former blast furnace.

      Landon Phillips, dressed as the Easter Bunny, and Boston Phillips, dressed as a chick, wave to cars in Newton, Massachusetts, during a drive-thru photo session at StoryHeights Church on April 11.

      A health worker collects a man's blood sample for a coronavirus antibody test in Tangerang, Indonesia, on May 4.

      Items are crossed out on a whiteboard during a drive-thru produce sale at the Farmer's Co-op in Dededo, Guam, on April 23. <a href="" target="_blank">The event,</a> put together by the nonprofit group Farm to Table Guam, offered produce grown by local farmers and was set to run for four hours. But it was cut short because the majority of the produce was sold in about half the time.

      Pastor Hans-Günter Sorge holds the monstrance during a drive-in Easter service in Hildesheim, Germany, on April 12.

      Denise Young looks on as her daughter Allison receives a portable computer in Newbury Park, California, on March 25. Around 75 Chromebooks, to be used for online instructions, were issued to students for free at a drive-thru and walk-up area in front of the school. <a href="" target="_blank">Related story: How the pandemic has changed education</a>

      Staff member Lauren Byrne takes orders at The Brock Inn in County Dublin, Ireland, on April 25. The inn set up a drive-thru service to provide breakfast, lunch and dinner.

      A volunteer works at a drive-thru food distribution in Miami during an event organized by the Feeding South Florida food bank on April 15. <a href="" target="_blank">Related story: With people out of work, food banks are stepping up</a>

      Pauline Thompson, left, waves to a passing car during <a href="" target="_blank">her drive-thru birthday party</a> in Henderson, Kentucky, on March 27. Thompson, a resident at the Colonial Assisted Living facility, was turning 97, and she had a drive-thru party because she was unable to celebrate with family and friends.

      Amanda Gonzalez writes "drive-thru is open!" on the window of a Taco Bell restaurant in Miami on April 7.

      Apparently Netflix and chill just isn’t cutting it any more.
      Food truck vendors selling burgers, hotdogs and sushi have been brought in to bring food to customers’ vehicles while they watch their outdoor films.
      “People just want to get out there, watch a movie, laugh together and eat some food,” Bernal said.
      Kal Dellaportas, head of operations at the Bel-Aire Diner in Queens, New York, had a similar experience after he started their own drive-in theater on May 6.
      Dellaportas said the drive-in he and his administrative team’s originally were just to raise money for charity.
      “The first time we put tickets up, which was for The Sandlot, tickets sold out in three minutes and there was over 500 attempts in those three minutes to buy tickets online,” Dellaportas told CNN Business on Friday.
      Since then, Dellaportas’ venue has shown audiences classic films like Grease and Dirty Dancing. He plans to feature The Greatest Showman in the near future.
      Dellaportas said the Bel-Aire drive-in has become so popular, it’s allowed him to re-hire staff members he furloughed in March after government officials enacted shelter-in-place orders that decimated foot traffic at restaurants throughout New York City.
      “Yesterday’s show sold out in under a minute,” Dellaportas told CNN Business on Friday. “It was 815 spots. We’re selling tickets through our website. Posted tickets on the website at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 19.
      Despite their successes and generating thousands in revenue every night of operation, the drive-in owners said they aren’t turning much of a profit. Overhead on the business is pricey after paying for permits, movie licensing and staffing.

        Bernal said he doesn’t see drive-ins being a long-term viable business opportunity, mainly because movie studios don’t care for them. A few weeks ago, he said his team reached out to Sony Pictures to purchase the rights to show Bad Boys For Life to drive-in audiences in Miami, where the film is based, but he said Sony gave him the runaround.
        “They started putting in rules and stuff that really didn’t make a lot of sense,” Bernal said. “It made us feel like, ‘Hey these guys just don’t want to do it.'”
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