While technology and the distractions it brings help most of us to survive the pandemic, simpler forms of entertainment – especially those that allow us to get out of the house and do it safely – have a special appeal.
As the film industry adjusts its release schedule due to Covid-19's online premiere of new titles, alternative options for going to the cinema are also gaining interest. Out of necessity – perhaps also out of a hunger for the basics of filmmaking before multiplexes adjacent to shopping centers took over the cinema landscape – the drive-in entertainment has a moment and rolls back into the social (distant) consciousness a multitude of possibilities.
In southern California, where car culture is deeply rooted in our history, drive-ins are a source of nostalgia and childhood memories for many. Boomers went to them as teenagers to mostly mess around (as featured in films like The Outsiders and Grease), and a decade or two later, Gen-Xers like me caught the end of the fun of in-car movies and went to the drive-in with healthier intentions. If you're at a certain age (before the turn of the millennium), you probably have memories of the family hatchback or truck that resets on the huge exterior screen of a drive-in. Her parents attach tiny speakers to their car windows to hear the sound of the film. or wear pajamas and bring the comfort of home. We often fell asleep during a normally double function and why not? It was like a mega pajama party in public. Yes, the family evening at the drive-in was something special.
In 2020, children are used to more stimulation, especially with current sound and picture quality systems for cinemas, although an appreciation seems to be developing for something that is less technology-driven. It has to be easy. Corona virus shows no signs that the spread will stop soon, and the drive-in offers a way to be in public without possibly being exposed to the germs of others. This fact has led to the drive-in format and drive-in venues being investigated as showcases not only for films but also for concerts, comedy shows and even drag extravaganzas.
"I think it's fantastic because it gives a whole new generation the opportunity to do something they have never done before," said Charles Phoenix, pop culture expert / author / spokesman in Southern California. "It is the time-honored tradition to watch a film under the starry sky from the comfort of what I call your private car. Car culture saves the day!"
The drive-in revival also goes beyond films. Phoenix believes that drive-thrus can be as fun as drive-ins. If we are all looking for activities, we have to open up to the possibilities.
"My whole thing about drive-in and drive-thru culture is – this is not just an opportunity for us to save our own lives and the lives of others, we also have the opportunity to learn history at the same time," he says . Add to that historical places like the Randy Donuts in Inglewood, the original Wiener Schnitzel in Wilmington, the oldest McDonalds in the world in Downey and the Donut Hole in La Puente (where guests drive through a giant donut) should be added to every review -In- and drive-thru culture.
Although Phoenix, known for its slide show presentations of the 50s and 60s and a YouTube channel called Joyride, which celebrates the retro car culture, advertises the visit of old drive-ins in SoCal (which have become more famous for flea markets and exchange sites in recent years Due to the newer provisional drive-in experiences with portable screens, such as those found in sports stadiums or in parking lots in shopping centers, drive-in entertainment remains cool by nature. For this reason, one of the largest film festivals in the world recently decided to join the trend. The Tribeca Film Festival hosts weekly screenings at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and they've been sold out since the start in June.
"We hope that the drive-in will serve as a reminder of the magic of the cinema experience," said Jane Rosenthal, co-founder and CEO of Tribeca. “As an instant and safe solution (for indoor theater), we're excited to bring new and classic works by filmmakers, creators, and artists to communities across the country. We want to bring people together through the arts to send a signal of unity and resilience to the world in challenging times. "
Robert De Niro, the other co-founder of Tribeca, agrees to advertise the program: "The Tribeca Drive-In series is a tribute to films and the shared experience of seeing them even when viewed from our cars" , he says. "In anticipation of the theater's reopening soon, we look back at what we love about the big screen experience."
Street Food Cinema, a group known for outdoor picnic-like screenings similar to the cinespia events at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, features in their new in-car series with Caruso (owner of The Grove alongside Farmer & # 39; s Market on Fairfax and) also hit films at the Americana shopping center in Glendale). In cooperation with Toyota, the demonstrations, which are referred to as "Level 8 Drive-In", are currently taking place on the top level of the Americana parking lot. Classic film refreshments such as free popcorn, mineral water and candy in boxes are included in the ticket fee. However, you can also enjoy other culinary components, including options from the mall's trendiest restaurants, including bourbon steak, katsuya, and shake shack.
Both the Tribeca series and Level 8 presented mainly classic films (Jaws, Wizard of Oz) and fan favorites (Mean Girls, Lala Land), but only a few new titles. That can change, because hopefully more dates will be announced for both. New releases in general are still premiered at home via streaming services, but the studios seem to be testing the water more and more both in existing drive-in locations and in pop-ups.
Fatima, Marco Pontecorvo's story of religious revelation in Portugal towards the end of the First World War, was recently shown on a giant screen in the Hollywood Palladium parking lot so that four guests per car could watch the film and give souvenir face masks to pre-packaged concessions. Similarly, Dave Franco's new thriller, The Rental, hosted press previews at Drive-In last month. In collaboration with Arclight Cinemas, Franco made his debut at Vineland Drive-in with his new thriller in the City of Industry and took the opportunity to speak to fans before the film started on the big screen and then provide questions and answers.
Other places that offer drive-in events that are not too far from LA are Ontario Airport, which launched a drive-in film series last month. the "Movies Under the Moon" series in Anaheim and the drive-in series of the city of Irvine with films and concerts (from August).
Although they are usually streamed online, drive-in music performances by Garth Brooks, Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani have also brought the idea to the fore of entertainment. Voss Entertainment's drive-in drag shows with queens from RuPaul & # 39; s Drag Race (scheduled for the weekend at the Rose Bowl) were designed to boost the madness of auto shows in new ways. "We usually invite the audience to open the tailgate in an outdoor area next to their car, but given the virus situation in LA, people have to stay inside at these shows," says organizer Brandon Voss. “We have four Jumbotron LED screens throughout the parking lot so everyone feels as close to the live experience as possible. ”
And since various forms of entertainment are experimenting with “drive-in” events, security must be paramount. So far, local events seemed to make this a priority, but apparently this is not always the case across the country. A drive-in music event in the Hamptons is currently under investigation with the dance duo The Chainsmokers this past weekend to allow customers to get out of their cars and band together near the stage.
As we noticed at Franco's event, other things have changed since we were kids. Those who haven't been in one for years will find that even the vintage theaters have done away with the old speakers from the past. Now users are tuning a frequency on their car radios to get audio for the film that delivers better sound than we remember as a kid, although it can drain the batteries of older cars. At Tribeca, film audio can be streamed on mobile phones. In the Corona era, cars were 6 feet apart, and personnel are available in bathrooms and concessions to ensure that masks and socially distant toilet lines are enforced. Some also employ additional cleaners to ensure that these areas are cleaned up.
Of course, the novelty of watching a movie in your car is a refreshing alternative to watching a movie at home, and movie lovers seem to be getting involved. However, some hardcore cinephiles don't consider them optimal if you want to watch an expected movie.
"People get out and watch movies, which is great and the drive-in can be fun, but I've always said it's a terrible way to watch a movie," said Jordan Dobbs Rosa, co-host of The Basic Pitch Podcast (the seasonal Rom-Com script game) and the weekly online screening series The Midnight Now. "I think I see it as a social activity as opposed to a filmic that corresponds to a group in a living room that everyone has seen the film many times and will talk about a lot because they know the good parts. Calm down, but if you have ever been the only person in the living room to see this film for the first time, you know that it is a miserable place, and that is how I feel especially at all the different outdoor film events. "
Rosa, who was also a cinema manager in her youth and worked as a production coordinator at Netflix, says that many have grown up who love films, especially because it's an indoor activity. For some film fans like him, it is not worth the traffic jam to get in and out of a drive-in, not to mention a lower picture and audio quality. "Especially in a projected situation, the outside environment is not sufficiently controlled for image or sound," he explains. "Headlights bouncing around the scene, slamming car doors, driving idle cars, and far from the screen are all crap if it's a movie you really want to see."
Perhaps this is the reason why classic films that are rather new are currently filling the list of most drive-ins. However, there are exceptions. Mission Tiki Drive-in in Pomona – one of the most popular local destinations since indoor cinemas closed – is offering new films, but most of them are also available via video-on-demand (VOD) or online streaming services Time. Two expected 2020 titles – Spies Like Us and Palm Springs – were shown on local drive-ins and debuted simultaneously on Amazon and Hulu, respectively.
"It reminds of a time when it was just a matter of going to the cinema to pass the time," added Rosa. "But for me personally, I would do it if I could not watch the film without distractions (which, fairly, has not been the case in cinemas for a long time and seems to be getting worse with things like table service). Stay at home and do it a better experience there. "
Without many other options for safe outdoor activities, even movie fans like Rosa seem to open up to the drive-in experience regardless of their previous opinion. If the corona virus taught us anything, it is an appreciation of many things that we used to take for granted. Getting entertained in our cars and sharing an experience – even if we're a little separated – is all we have now, and when we start going crazy inside, that's still a novel option.
If you decide to include a few hours of history in the activity, as the colorful Mr. Phoenix recommends, novel and nostalgia are what you are waiting for. He also has suggestions.
"One of the best drive-in cinema experiences in Southern California includes four original old-school classics that are still standing," he says. "The Rodium at Redondo Beach, where the screen tower is a mid-century modern architectural masterpiece and the front shield will blow your mid-century space style!"
"Then there's the Tiki mission," he continues. "It's been there since 1956. It has four screens and was revised about 10-12 years ago by lovers of the master tiki craft. They underwent a tiki overhaul, which is fantastic because now it looks real."
The other two Phoenix favorites include the Rubidoux Drive-in in the Inland Empire ("it's a total leap in time") and the Van Buren Drive-in in Riverside. "These are the four drive-ins that survive. They are out there and I'm glad they are out there because if you want time shifts and if you want to enjoy the authentic traditional experience of time you have to go there, ”he enthuses.
Although Wilmington and Pomona only seem like a fair drive from LA to a film, Phoenix considers them "travel experiences that are worth traveling." As a film critic who watches a lot of films and as a mother who is looking for safe distractions from outside, we all agree.
"It's about getting out of the house, staying out of the house, and having a time-honored experience while feeling like you've done something," Phoenix emphasizes. “It's a classic American experience. Auto culture has invaded America a long time ago, but we're doing it better and more often than anyone else. At the end of the day, as things are going, we'll have a drive-thru and drive-in culture again, so let's enjoy it. "
Next time you need to get out and be entertained, do the following:
Paramount Twin Drive-In, 7770 Rosecrans Ave., Paramount
Vineland Drive-In 443 N Vineland Ave, City of Industry
Mission Tiki Drive-In 10798 Ramona Ave., Montclair / Pomona
Van Buren Drive-In 3035 Van Buren Boulevard, riverside
Rubidoux Drive-In 3770 Opal St., river bank
Rodium Drive-In, 2500 W. Redondo Beach Boulevard, Redondo Beach
Tribeca Drive-In at the Rose Bowl, 1001 Rose Bowl Dr. Pasadena
Level 8 drive-in at Glendale Americana, 889 Americana Way, Glendale
Voss Events Drag N & # 39; Drive in the Rose Bowl, 1001 Rose Bowl Dr. Pasadena