Few Remaining Drive-Ins Continue To Dominate While Other Theaters Are Closing

Cars in drive-in

The movie business is nearly frozen. Most movie theaters in the country are closed as many states are in lockdown asking people to stay home unless absolutely necessary. If you do go out, you're asked to keep your distance from people as much as possible. However, there is one method of public film screening that lends itself to social distancing quite well, and so it might be little surprise that, while the drive-in movie business is nearly gone, the few that remaining are actually booming.

Drive-in movie theaters only have a few locations left around the country, but as that particular exhibition design allows everybody to keep their distance from each other inside closed vehicles, many drive-in theaters are still open in places where they're allowed to be. This has resulted in drive-ins becoming the top theaters in the country for the first time in decades. According to Deadline, of the top 30 theaters showing Pixar's Onward last weekend, 25 of them were drive-ins. The same ratio is true for all the major film releases, at least as far as data is available. It's obviously been hard to come by recently.

While all the major theater chains have been closed for about the last week, drive-ins remained open, and many still are. "Shelter in place" orders have been issued in many states closing all non-essential businesses, so not all of the few remaining drive-ins are open, but in places where they are, reports are that not only are they representing the majority of current box office sales, but business is up overall for those theaters.

Only data from about 135 total theaters in the country could be added together to make something resembling a box office report, compared to approx 5,000 that are currently closed. That number may still continue to shrink as more places close non-essential businesses. As much as getting out of the house to the movies in a mostly safe way is nice, it's still more risk than is strictly necessary.

While drive-in theaters were incredibly popular decades ago, there are only a few left that operate regularly and you would not expect to see them doing big business, especially this time of year. If there's a time that drive-ins are popular, it's going to be when it's warmer, so March is not prime drive-in movie time, unless of course, it's the only theater in town that's open.

Maybe, with more people giving the drive-in a try, they'll enjoy themselves enough to give it a try again in the future and the ones that are left will get a rebirth thanks to the current insanity. It would be nice if there was something of a silver lining to the whole coronavirus experience. Once things get back to normal, actually hiding in cars at the drive-in won't be required. Find a group of friends and have yourself a small tailgate-like experience at the movie theater.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.