Whilst the coronavirus pandemic has been a huge blow to the cinema industry across the globe, there’s one form of cinemagoing that’s had a socially distanced renaissance this year – the drive-in.
The drive-in cinema set-up of minimal contact with other people means they’re well placed to offer big screen entertainment during a pandemic, to the point that this month saw low budget horror movie The Wretched rack up a tidy amount at the US box office by screening largely at drive-in cinemas.
The US is particularly well prepared for automobile viewing, as that’s where the romance of the drive-in experience was first cultivated, beginning in the 1920s but cemented during the 50s and 60s. Here in the UK, the unique lure of watching films from a car never really caught on, but the recent explosion in outdoor screenings during the summer months took a lot of what made those screenings work and tweaked them for the picnic blanket crowd.
The impact of COVID-19 has meant those same outdoor screenings are now emulating their US cousins this summer, with Luna Cinema rebranding as Luna Drive-In and offering a comprehensive programme of big hitters on the Pageant Field by Warwick Castle from 7 July. The line-up is standard outdoor cinema fare – kids films (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin), cult favourites (The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Mean Girls) and 80s classics (Back To The Future, Dirty Dancing) – alongside nihilistic laugh riot Joker on 13 July.
Suzuki are sponsoring their very own drive-in tour over the summer months which is visiting Birmingham from 15 to 19 July, complete with two screenings of Grease (featuring probably the most well-known movie scene set at a drive-in), recent Lady Gaga remake A Star Is Born and the pleasing opportunity to watch Pixar animation Cars whilst sitting in a car. You’ll also get 50s style roller skating waiters, plus ten free tickets are available for NHS staff and care workers for every screening.
More 80s favourites come courtesy of Adventure Drive-In from 23 July at Avery Fields sports club in Bournville, with Labyrinth, Back To The Future and The Neverending Story appearing in the same programme as Jurassic Park and Disney’s original Lion King animation, with the added option of raving in a confined space thanks to two DJ club nights on 24 and 25 July (warning: don’t try it in a Mini).
The team behind FAO Birmingham nightclub are also planning a series of drive-in screenings in Digbeth from July, although details were still unconfirmed at time of press, so keep checking drivethruevents.co.uk for more information as it’s announced. Over in Derbyshire, the newly launched Drive In Films - a brand new company formed off the back of one of the organisers being furloughed during the pandemic - begins operating at Mickleover Sports Club from 24 July with the likes of Rocketman and Mammia Mia on the menu.
But not every outdoor cinema event this summer means having to make sure you’re not sitting on a seat belt – the Al Fresco Film Company are offering socially distanced deckchair viewing in Worcester, Coventry and Redditch, with titles including Downton Abbey at the Elms Hotel in Worcester on 13 Aug and Jurassic Park at Coombe Abbey Park in Coventry on 5 Sep.
And for those concerned that the pandemic has done irreparable damage to traditional cinemagoing, consider this interesting fact about the aforementioned success of The Wretched - it was also simultaneously available online, meaning that thousands of people specifically chose the big screen experience. A ray of hope at an uncertain time for cinemas.