Back To The Drive-In Movie

Pop-up drive-in movie theaters are compensating for the lack of indoor film screenings due to the pandemic

While Long Islanders continue to practice social distancing, it seems like we won’t be congregating inside a movie theater any time soon. No matter the recommended precautions and meticulous cleaning procedures, inside gatherings aren’t on people’s radar just yet.
We’ve had great success on Long Island in flattening the curve and staying safe. Do we really want to blow everything to see the new Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure movie in a theatre? Unless they can protect everyone with a clear plastic bubble of isolation, I’m not sure it’s worth the risk.
That’s why the recent influx of pop-up drive-in movies is so intriguing. Many towns, including the Town of Oyster Bay, are enticing families to use their vehicles as private viewing bubbles with family-friendly movies being offered for free down by the ocean.
Other venues, like the Bayville Adventure Park, are offering the drive-in experience with classic movies for an admission price per vehicle, which includes a voucher for food and drink. We decided to give Bayville a try on a Saturday night to see Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Our friends Karen and Glenn, who live in Bellmore, were still without power from Isaias and needed a night out more than we did. We packed chairs, a few adult beverages, and some snacks, then hopped into my car and headed up to Bayville for the movie. We hadn’t gotten together since sometime in April, so I don’t know if they were happy to see us or just wanted to use our car for the air conditioning and to charge their phones.
The admission price was $70 per vehicle, but that included a $50 voucher for food and drinks, including mixed drinks and beer. When you think about it, it’s cheaper than going to the movie and buying popcorn and a soda.

Each vehicle was given a menu of items available, like burgers, fries, sandwiches, ice cream or alcoholic drinks. A charming guy named Julio took our order and disappeared for about an hour. No harm, no foul. We had dinner before we got there and had plenty of snacks and drinks to keep us occupied.
The movie was shown in the back parking lot and we had access to the restrooms inside the park. It was nicely organized and they configured the 50 or 60 cars in such a way that everyone had a good view of the screen. They started loading the cars sometime after 7:30 p.m. and the movie started as soon as it got dark (almost 8:30 p.m.)

We set up chairs outside our car before the movie started like we would at a free concert at John J. Burns Park. While waiting for it to get dark (and my Bahama Mama), we chatted and caught up on our lives during this pandemic. We heard their horror stories about trying to communicate with PSE&G and we talked about our kids. Before we knew it, the movie had started.
Unfortunately, there were no speakers to hear the sound if you were sitting outside of your car. The audio was only available on FM radio (station 87.9). Of the 50 or 60 vehicles present, most stayed inside to enjoy the movie with sound. There were a handful of moviegoers who remained outside. Since we had seen the movie 100 times, the lack of quality audio outside was not going to ruin the evening for us. We were having such a good time; the film was sort of secondary, like background music at a barbecue.

Although I love the concept of these pop-up drive-in theaters, maybe it’s time to reconsider reviving drive-in movies permanently? There is no greater champion of seeing movies in a theatre than your humble narrator. Still, I’m not sure I’m ready to go back inside. It would be nice to see first-run movies on giant screens again, using our cars as a protective bubble.
For that experience, I’d even venture out to see Bill and Ted Face the Music.

Paul DiSclafani, a Massapequa resident, is a Press Club of Long Island award-winning columnist (2018, 2020) and an Anton Media Group contributor since 2016.

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