The drive-in theater: It’s a nostalgic relic of America’s past that we typically only see on screen rather in real life. At least, that was the case last year. In October 2019, there were only 305 drive-in theaters in the US—and hardly any outside America.
But with the pandemic demanding us to avoid crowds in indoor spaces, the drive-in has reemerged as a safer way for people to experience entertainment. And it’s not just America that is seeing a new wave of drive-in theaters popping up.
Across the pond, the UK now has 40 sites offering a drive-in movie experience. Meanwhile, Russia, Germany, and South Korea are seeing drive-in cinemas opening up, and Brazil even transformed a football stadium into a drive-in.
What’s particularly interesting to see is the unique spaces where drive-ins are being opened. In Germany, for instance, there’s a drive-in in front of an old blast furnace plant, providing a spooky industrial ambiance. In Lithuania, an airport—unused due to canceled flights—also became a pop-up drive-in as part of a film festival (see the story from May).
Another fascinating development is the way drive-ins are being subverted in all sorts of ways. For instance, Rotterdam’s Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen teamed up with a local convention center to run a drive-through museum in a 10,000m2 arena.
“We were confronted with this giant space, but in a car, it’s a similar scale to a human inside a museum space,” said co-curator Francesco Stocchi. “You find all sorts of imaginative solutions, and there were a number of liberating actions I could take that you usually cannot have, like blowing a video up to 11m on a billboard.”
For all the restrictions that come with living during a pandemic, it’s been quite amazing to see the imaginative ways that humans maneuver around these restrictions safely.