British Columbia

Drive-in theatres stage a comeback in the era of physical distancing

The three drive-in theatres in B.C. are making changes to the way they show films so they can open up and provide safe entertainment amid physical distancing orders.

Cashless sales, fewer parking spots mark 'The year of the drive in,' says owner

The Park Drive-In will open in Prince George, B.C., once the snow has melted, but with new safety protocols in place. (Ron Gallo)

Three drive-in theatres in B.C. are making changes to the way they show films so they can provide safe entertainment and still follow pandemic rules asking people who don't live in the same household to stay apart.

The Park Drive-In theatre in Prince George in northern B.C. is getting ready for opening, but first they have to wait for the snow to melt. 

"Everyone's been super positive and there are people who want us to open now," Park drive-in co-owner Nina Keba told Daybreak North host Carolina de Ryk. 

She hopes to open near the beginning of May, but of course, there will be some changes to how the drive-in works. 

They'll show only one movie per night, as opposed to the traditional two, to minimize the number of people coming into the space. But because studios aren't releasing new films right now, they'll be showing classics. 

Every other parking space will be closed to account for physical distancing and concession orders will be done on a checklist and then delivered to the vehicle. 

Like many businesses that are open right now, increased cleaning, hand saniziting stations and cash-free payment systems will be in place. 

The Twilight Drive-In in Langley has been operating since March 13 in the Fraser Valley community — right around the time businesses started shutting down and health officials asked residents to stay home. 

"While the nice thing about the drive-in has always been that you are in the privacy and comfort of your own vehicle, without having to share an armrest with a stranger, or having people sitting around you coughing, we understand that there is public concern around COVID-19, and that this has an impact on how people choose to spend their time," the owners said in a Facebook post. 

 

They have hand sanitizer available at the concession and encourage people to get snacks during the movie when the concession is less busy in order to maintain physical distancing. 

They're asking their staff and customers who feel ill to stay home. 

In the Okanagan, Enderby's Starlight Theatre has announced they plan to open this spring, but a date hasn't been confirmed.

They'll accept online ticket purchases only, place field markings in the parking lot to ensure distancing between vehicles and add more nights to their schedule due to their now limited capacity. 

 

On social media, they said they'll be doing a test weekend to ensure the practices they've been working on will be enough to ensure a safe experience for customers. 

Keba said drive-ins will play an important role in providing entertainment for British Columbians in the weeks and months ahead. 

"It's the safety of it all and just knowing that you're secure and you can still watch a movie and be comfortable and you can even put your seat back and relax and you can bring blankets if you want [it] cozy," she said.

"This is the year of the drive in. I think we're going back to what better way than to enjoy some time with your family than going out to a drive-in theater where you can be in the safety of your own car and with your family and watch a movie and have some buttered popcorn."

With files from Daybreak North

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