Why we need drive in cinemas to stay

Drive-in cinemas need to stay please!

Drive-in cinemas in the US have been a thing since the 1930s and within thirty years there over 4000, but still there are very few here in the UK.   That was until lockdown, or rather the easing of lockdown.   With cinemas and theatres still closed, or with regular customers nervous about sitting near strangers for a few hours, drive-in cinemas have popped up as the perfect way for movie lovers to get their fix.

It had always struck me as odd that drive-in cinemas weren’t as common in the UK as in the US because they seem like the best way to see a film.   You can take your own snacks and not be tempted to pay over the odds for a bag of Revels and you don’t need to sit through the sound of random strangers munching their way through all the noisy snacks for two hours.  And you don’t miss parts of the film as fellow viewers decide they need push past you at the exact moment the plot twist airs.  I have written before about my dislike of cinemas generally because other people are just SO inconsiderate, so being able to stay in our own car is the perfect way to see a film for me.

My first (and up to this week, only) drive-in experience was in 1991 when I was in the US for a couple of weeks with a work friend.  We were joining our boyfriends who were over in San Diego for the summer and after staying with them for a week we had hired a car and driven off, Thelma and Louise style, around California for another week.  By the time we arrived in LA we had been put in touch with a couple of guys who had been asked to keep an eye on us, and as part of their wanting us to enjoy our American adventure took us to a baseball game, and the Drive-In.

Sadly it would be almost 29 years to the day until I would get to go to the Drive-in again and whilst I wouldn’t say it was worth the wait it is an experience I will remember when I look back at lockdown in years to come.   I saw an advert on Facebook and knowing the venue, decided to book a visit.  I say “venue”, effectively it’s just a car park.   And I must admit that the desire go in the evening when it would be darker (rather than their 11am or 3pm showings) far outweighed the choice of film.   Reservoir Dogs, which I could quite cheerfully never watch again so the less said about it the better!

Clearly I was in the minority though as many people were obviously fans, having dressed as the main characters to attend the film.   Judging of the “best in show” was done at a safe distance and it was fun to see so many people making an effort and being rewarded for it.

We had arrived in plenty of time ( an hour before the start of the film ), been given our speaker to sit on the dashboard, and were shown to our spot.  Though we did then have to ask to be moved from the first spot as it was on the front row and looking through the windscreen all I could see was the rear view mirror so do double check you can see as soon as you park up.  Food was delivered to the car within minutes of ordering on line, and handed through windows in paper bags, ensuring we were all still socially distanced.


How much does a drive-in cinema cost?

We paid around £50 for our visit, which on the face of it sounds like a lot.  But, bear in mind that is per car, not per person.  So if you can get five people in your car you are looking at a tenner a head, which is pretty much on par with regular cinemas near us.

Can I get out of my car at the drive-in?

Given the recently changed guidelines we were encouraged to stay in our cars unless we needed to nip off to the loos, to ensure there wasn’t too much mixing with other people.  Though we were told that sitting on bonnets, or lying against windscreens with pillows and duvets is not unusual under normal circumstances.

Is there anything else, other than the film?

Obviously this would vary from venue to venue and depend on the company that is organising the event but, yes, generally there is something to keep you all occupied in the time between arrival and the film starting.   We had a version of Twister, an in car treasure hunt, and a Zoom Call with people acting out scenes from movie sound tracks (think Kate Winslet and Titanic out of your sun roof).

All in all we loved it, and I really do hope that drive-in cinemas need to stay, even when traditional cinemas return to normal.

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