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Drive-in movie theaters see resurgence during coronavirus

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With most movie theaters nationwide shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic, drive-in theaters have seen a resurgence in popularity.

There are 305 drive-in theaters in the U.S., and owners in California, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma told the Los Angeles Times that attendance has been on the rise as public health officials tell residents to practice social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus.

Beau Bianchi, whose family has owned California’s Paramount Drive-In for seven decades, told the newspaper that ticket sales had been “at least double” the typical amount the previous Tuesday and that the theater sold 320 tickets that day. The family’s indoor theater was closed two days earlier due to coronavirus.

“It has been a welcome relief for families and adults looking for a little getaway from the house,” Bianchi said. “We’ve been trying to let people know that we have a safe environment and [offer] a little escape.”

Other owners, however, have closed down their theaters due to the outbreak, including the Family Drive-In Theatre in Stephens City, Va., and the West Wind Capitol Drive-In in San Jose, Calif.

“They are following local ordinances and/or made business decisions to do so,” John Vincent, president of the United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association, told the Times. “The drive-ins that are doing well are in areas that have not been hit hard yet with the outbreak.”

Public health officials have strongly recommended against gatherings of more than 50 people, and several jurisdictions have banned them outright, but some drive-in owners are unclear on whether they qualify.

“I don’t think we fit into the gathering category personally because all the gathering places are places where you are confined with a bunch of people,” Doug Mercille, owner of the still-open Starlite Drive-In in Cadet, Mo., told the newspaper. “At the drive-in, you’ve got to be in your own car.”

Tags Coronavirus drive-in movie theaters movie theaters Social distancing
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