Historic Season for Drive-In Theaters Comes to End

    06 November 2020

    With temperatures dropping across the United States, drive-in theaters do not have much time left. Still, many drive-ins, or places where people watch movies in their cars, are staying open beyond their usual closing date for the season.

    The Northfield Drive-in, near Hinsdale, New Hampshire, went two months past its closing date. The drive-in has played an important part in the community. Along with movies, it has held graduation ceremonies for everyone from young students to doctors of medicine.

    Filmgoers attend the
    Filmgoers attend the "Nomadland" screening at the Queens Drive-In at the New York Hall of Science during the 58th New York Film Festival on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

    Northfield held its final event last weekend. Visitor Julia Wiggins called the drive-in "a major community service project. "

    Hundreds of miles away, Jay Mowery operates the Cumberland Drive-in in Newville, Pennsylvania. Mowery has held a wedding there, a trick-or-treating event and other activities. He also closed the drive-in for the season last weekend. But, like other drive-in owners, he expects to continue socially-distanced events when he re-opens in the spring.

    "It's been a lot better than being closed, and it's certainly helped the community. It's given them a place to gather," says Mowery.

    John Vincent is president of the United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association. Vincent estimates more than 200 drive-ins were still operating through last weekend.

    Showing movies is only part of what these drive-ins do - especially since Hollywood film companies stopped releasing their big films.

    Marcella Snyder runs the Tibbs Drive-in in the midwestern city of Indianapolis, Indiana. Snyder usually holds one or two private events a year. This year, she held 50. And, she says, the requests are still coming for November and December.

    "If it starts snowing, what am I going to do?" asked Snyder.

    Like indoor theaters, drive-ins are limiting visitor numbers by about half to make safe social distancing possible.

    This fall, most drive-ins are seeing much higher attendance than normal. Drive-ins like Tibbs now use online ticketing and food ordering.

    "We built our whole business on nostalgia and it's nice that we've turned a corner. We've kind of brought it into the 21st century," says Snyder.

    Some American drive-ins have even more to offer. Just outside the city of Detroit, Michigan, is the Ford Wyoming Drive-In. It has five large screens and is open all night, from sundown to sunrise.

    The Ford Wyoming does not have a "season." Its operator also owns a building company, so the drive-in has snow-clearing equipment available nearby. The drive-in is open year round.

    Co-owner William Clark admits the Ford Wyoming is "unusual" for drive-ins. He says ticket sales this October were about two times higher than usual.

    "We never close," he says, unless "there's a 10-inch snowstorm right before the movie goes on the screen."

    I'm John Russell.

    The Associated Press reported this story. John Russell adapted it for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    graduation – n. a ceremony at which degrees or diplomas are given out

    trick-or-treat – n. a custom on Halloween in which children knock on people's doors and say "trick or treat" when the doors are opened to ask for candy

    ticket -- v. to give or sell a ticket to (someone). A ticket is a piece of paper that allows you to see a show, participate in an event, travel on a vehicle, etc.

    nostalgia – n. pleasure and sadness that is caused by remembering something from the past and wishing that you could experience it again

    screen -- n. a large, flat, white surface on which images or movies are shown

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