Drive-in movies rise to popularity amidst social distancing


Mohammad Khodabakhsh

A drive-in theatre at night.

Clare Erwin, The Delphi Editor

A nostalgic, big screen playing cheesy films, as seen from the back of a pickup truck or the comfy passenger seat, with the radio tuned to listen in. This classic set-up has attracted Americans for decades, and in a time when social distancing has become the new normal, drive-ins are beginning to make a comeback.

The first drive-in movie theatre, known as a “Park-in theatre” at the time, appeared in Camden, New Jersey in 1933. In the decades that followed, drive-ins began to spring up across the country, and by 1958, over 4,000 existed.

Drive-ins remained a popular destination for teenagers and families throughout the 60s, especially in rural areas. But as modern advancements to TVs and indoor theatres began to take place, their decline became inevitable.

Now, with traditional theatres closed due to COVID-19, many Americans are once again turning to drive-ins for entertainment. They offer a unique way to enjoy films while simultaneously distancing oneself from others.

As recently reported, Governor Murphy announced on the 13th that drive-in movies, and other similar services in which people remain in their vehicles, were permitted. “We are stating that gatherings of vehicles, such as drive-in movies or religious services, are not a violation of my order prohibiting mass gatherings, so long as all participants remain in their cars.”

This isn’t the first time that Americans looked to drive-ins for safety during a pandemic. Around the time of the first drive-in movie theatre, Polio was a serious concern in America. Until 1955, there was no vaccine for the virus. As a result, drive-in theatres attracted worried families through their advertising, claiming that they were free of polio, as well as the flu.

While protective measures such as face masks and the six-feet-apart recommendation are still being enforced, the ability to go out and enjoy entertainment once again is certainly a relief for many. In this way, drive-in theatres remind us of the simple pleasures that can still be enjoyed during a difficult time, just as they were in the past.