This article appeared in the April 28, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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A pandemic revival of the drive-in movie

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/File
Six-year-old twins Emma (left) and Katie Blackford from Dublin, Ireland, eat popcorn while waiting for a movie to start at their first drive-in theater in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, in July 1998. The family is on vacation and decided to try this American phenomenon.
David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

I have a soft spot for the drive-in movie. My first glimpse of that big screen magic came on a tropical summer night as a 4-year-old in pj’s peering out the back of our Ford station wagon. My first date with the girl in high school who became my wife was to a drive-in movie. My daughters and their friends grew up loving the premovie picnic and pickup soccer before settling in for a double feature. 

Now this almost forgotten American pastime is seeing a renaissance. People are desperate to get out. In some states, it may violate the spirit of shelter-in-place, but one Florida drive-in owner argues that your car is really an extension of your living room. Many open-air theaters have closed their concession stands to uphold social distancing rules.

In Queen Creek, Arizona, Schnepf Farms just put a movie screen on a tractor-trailer in a field to help replace its lost wedding and festival business. At $15 per carload, the new 60-car drive-in has sold out every night since opening two weeks ago. The popularity “caught us by surprise,” Mark Schnepf told KPHO-TV in Phoenix.  

It shouldn’t have, really. For me, the drive-in represents family bonding. A silver lining to this tragic pandemic is that a new generation is being introduced to a unique community event, and getting to experience the childlike anticipation that builds as the sun slowly sets and the air fills with a chorus of crickets and the perfume of popcorn. 

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This article appeared in the April 28, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 04/28 edition
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