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Drive-in Theaters Experience Revival Nationwide Amid COVID

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AUTO CENTRAL - June 10, 2020 - Volkswagen of America is reporting that Drive-in movie theaters are one of the few businesses experiencing a renaissance amid the coronavirus pandemic. As one of the few entertainment destinations you can still visit outside of the home, they’ve experienced a boom in popularity and demand over the past couple months.

“We’ve seen a resurgence in interest across the country. Our shows are selling out every night. It’s the best market I have ever seen in all my years in business,” says Jim Kopp, owner of The Family Drive-in Theatre in Stephens City, Va.

The open-air venues are uniquely suited to thrive while many brick-and-mortar theaters have temporarily closed. Though there aren’t many left in the U.S. — about 330 still exist, compared to over 5,400 multiplexes — they’ve been bright spots of entertainment, comfort and nostalgia at this difficult time.

“We’ve heard from a lot of folks that they didn’t even realize drive-in theaters still existed [before the pandemic],” Kopp said.

The Family Drive-in Theatre, which has been a staple in the community since 1956, has reopened with an abundance of caution to help protect their patrons. Moviegoers must buy tickets and concessions online, don face masks outside and maintain a proper social distance from fellow guests and their cars. Theater management has also limited the two-screen drive-in to half capacity, closed the children’s outdoor playground and covered their movie speakers in protective wrap. Bathrooms are sanitized by attendants after every use.

“Folks want to come, have fun and feel safe in their automobiles all while maintaining proper social distancing,” says Kopp. “Our lifestyle has been so disrupted [by the pandemic] and our theaters provide a chance for people to return to normalcy.”

In honor of National Drive-In Movie Day, we asked Kopp for ten tips on how to make your next (or first) drive-in movie experience a success:

    • Secure tickets in advance: Most drive-in ticket sales have moved online, so be sure to scope out the best showtimes online and purchase your ticket ahead of the show. “It’s automatic insurance that you’re going to get in,” says Kopp.

    • Arrive early: Demand is high, especially during the summer, so Kopp suggests moviegoers arrive at least an hour early to secure a spot near the front of the screen. If you’re looking to beat the crowds and avoid parking hassles, you may want to consider a weekday screening.

    • Pack toys and games: After arriving early, you’ll have some time to kill before the film starts. Be sure to pack some light entertainment, such as a book or card game, for you and the kids.

    • Dress comfortably: Consider wearing cozy clothes, such as shorts and leggings, and extra layers to stay warm and relaxed. Kids can always wear their pajamas to the show, which makes it convenient for parents when putting them to bed after a late screening.

    • Bring bug repellent and sunscreen: Most drive-in movie theaters are in or around wooded areas, which means bugs. Unless you enjoy swatting them all night, pack some spray. Sunscreen is another good option for protection from those hot summer rays.

    • Pack a portable radio and extra batteries: While The Family Drive-In has speakers located throughout the pavilion, the noise of fellow guests can carry over and Kopp suggests packing a small AM/FM radio to make sure you capture every bit of dialog.

    • Bring pillows and blankets: One of the biggest perks of drive-ins is sitting outside underneath the stars. To make the experience cozier, put down the back rows of your parked Atlas or Tiguan and open the trunk towards the screen.

    • Order from the concession stand: Drive-ins typically make most of their money from concession stands. Kopp doesn’t accept a salary and puts all the theater profits back into his business. To adjust to current safety measures and to continue keeping revenue fluid, he has moved the theater’s concession operations online. Patrons can now order boxed goods via an app. An exception to the rule is to purchase a food permit, which typically ranges from $5-$10. It allows you to bring in food from outside while helping the drive-in owners offset the loss of revenue from the concession stand.

    • Put away your cellphone: Refrain from any cell phone use during the show. It can be disturbing to guests and distracts from the experience.

    • Prepare to have a good time: “Sit down, relax and enjoy the show,” Kopp says.

Ten movies co-starring Volkswagen classics

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1. ?The Love Bug’ (1968): A down-on-his-luck racecar driver and his mechanic discover a white 1963 Volkswagen Beetle with a mind of its own.

2. ?Footloose’ (1984, 2011): When a teenager gets pulled over for listening to rock-n-roll in his yellow 1972 Volkswagen Beetle, he realizes his small town is overdue for some change.

3. ?Pretty in Pink’(1986): A high school misfit drives her light pink 1959 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia to the prom – a perfect accessory to her homemade, puffy-sleeved dress.

4. ?Happy Gilmore’ (1996): The transformation of a hockey hack into a pro golfer takes many hilarious turns, including an attack with a white 1972 Volkswagen Super Beetle.

5. ?50 First Dates’(2004): An art teacher suffering from short-term memory loss drives a sunny yellow 1973 Volkswagen Thing as she goes on dates around Hawaii.

6. ?Little Miss Sunshine’ (2006): A dysfunctional family comes together as they road-trip to California in a yellow 1971 Volkswagen T2 Microbus.

7. ?Horrible Bosses’(2011): Three disgruntled employees plot revenge against their oppressive bosses from a silver 2011 Volkswagen Jetta.

8. ?Bumblebee’(2018): When a teenager discovers a beat-up yellow 1967 Volkswagen Beetle in a junkyard, she unwittingly brings an extraterrestrial civil war to Earth.

9. ?Once Upon A Time in Hollywood’ (2019): An actor's stunt double drives a baby blue 1964 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia as he struggles to find meaningful work in the final years of Hollywood's Golden Age.

10. ?Between Two Ferns: The Movie’ (2019): In his quest to earn a show on network TV, a comedian drives his 2006 Volkswagen Passat wagon across the country, interviewing celebrities along the way.