This Is the Safest Way to Go to the Movies Right Now

This one kind of theater provide a safer big-screen experience amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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While the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many studios have started releasing movies to on-demand services early so you can safely stream them at home, but that doesn't mean you're not missing the big-screen experience. While movie theaters are slowly reopening across the country, many remain shuttered—not to mention the fact that you still might not feel comfortable with the risk of going to a theater at this point. Thankfully, a new option has emerged, or rather reemerged, for seeing movies safely amid the coronavirus pandemic: drive-in movie theaters.

Drive-in theaters hit their peak in the 1950s and '60s, and they've been in decline ever since. Nowadays, they're more likely to be seen as a retro novelty than as a valid moviegoing option—at least, that was the case until very recently. The rise of the drive-in in the age of COVID-19 isn't all that surprising. When you're confined to your car, you are significantly limiting your exposure to coronavirus: You're not touching any potentially virus-laden surfaces, nor are you breathing in any virus particles from other moviegoers who could be asymptomatic carriers.

In order for movie theaters to get back up and running again, they're going to have to spend a considerable amount of money on safety precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus—everything from selling fewer tickets to having a supply of masks and gloves on-hand to creating lanes to enforce social distancing. On top of that, there's still a question of when new movies will return to theaters, given that many highly anticipated releases have already been delayed until 2021.

Drive-in theaters, on the other hand, just need space for cars and a big screen, and the social distancing takes care of itself. They can screen whichever new movies the studios are willing to provide, or show flashback features. Audiences desperate to go back to the movies again will show up either way. Kal Dellaportas, head of operations at the Bel-Aire Diner in Queens, New York, told CNN Business that when he put up tickets for a drive-in screening of 1993's The Sandlot, they sold out in three minutes.

drive-in theater screen welcoming moviegoers in cars
iStock

More recent releases are also taking advantage of the drive-in craze. IFC Films' indie horror film The Wretched is breaking box-office records through drive-in screenings: The film has been No. 1 at the box office five weekends in a row, which hasn't happened since Black Panther in 2018. To be fair, there's not currently a lot of competition, but The Wretched has proven that people will turn out to see movies on the big screen if there's a safe place to see them—even if they're also available to stream at home.

"We pivoted the marketing in cool retro drive-in ads," Arianna Bocco, executive vice president of acquisitions and production at IFC Films, told Variety. "It's really unprecedented that an indie horror film [like The Wretched] could do that kind of gross solely from drive-ins. It would have taken a long time in hardtop theaters. It's really kept going and strengthening."

Once standard movie theaters return, it's unclear if drive-ins will retain their popularity. Eddie Bernal, who recently began a temporary drive-in theater operation, Carflix Cinemas, told CNN Business that he doesn't believe drive-in movies will be viable in the long-run. In the meantime, however, moviegoers can take advantage of the resurgence of a nostalgic outing. If you're looking for a drive-in movie experience of your own, Parade has a list of the drive-in theaters in every state.

And for more on how going to the movies will change after the pandemic, check out these 5 Things You'll Never See at Movie Theaters Again After Coronavirus.

Best Life is constantly monitoring the latest news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed. Here are the answers to your most burning questions, the ways you can stay safe and healthy, the facts you need to know, the risks you should avoid, the myths you need to ignore,and the symptoms to be aware of. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.
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