Amid coronavirus outbreak, drive-in theaters unexpectedly find their moment
Brenna Coogle frequented the Paramount Drive-In as a child growing up in Lakewood but hadn’t been there in about 30 years.
On Tuesday night, however, she decided to visit it for a showing of Pixar Animation Studios’ “Onward” with her 9-year-old son and friends.
Moments before previews began, Coogle stood near her car under a darkening sky and considered how the coronavirus had upended daily life. She said the widening pandemic made her feel she couldn’t go most places — including a conventional movie theater — and she yearned for a distraction.
“So, Day Two of home school, we are all cooped up in the house, and this was a way to go out and still be distant from other people but not at our house,” Coogle said.
Drive-in theaters have long been viewed as an anachronistic diversion — perhaps worthy of an occasional visit, if that. Now, though, several among the country’s 305 drive-in theaters are experiencing a surge in interest as traditional movie theaters, theme parks and other entertainment options are forced to close because of governmental advisories designed to increase social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak.
In interviews with The Times, owners of drive-ins in California, Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri said that they remain open, with several reporting increases in business in recent days. Operators said they were mindful of restrictions on large gatherings and would close if a mandate required them to do so.
Ticket sales Tuesday at the two-screen Paramount Drive-In were “at least double” what they typically would be, said Beau Bianchi, whose family has owned the facility in Paramount since 1946. In all, the drive-in — which offered a double feature on both of its screens — welcomed 136 cars and sold 320 tickets. The family’s neighboring 11-screen indoor cineplex closed Sunday, but Bianchi said he expects business to continue to grow at the drive-in.
“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.”…