Driving to Drive-Ins

Many of us are missing movies on the big screen. Some states have cinemas that are open again. Should you venture out? There are many factors to consider. What are the rates of COVID infection in your area? How crowded were your movie theaters BEFORE the Pandemic? Do you live with or work with anyone at high risk for the virus? And what is your personal comfort level with being in an enclosed space wearing a mask for up to 2 hours?

I live in a small town in New York. Movie theaters are still closed here but Beacon, NY has a little Drive-In that’s screening family-friendly movies. There’s also a nearby Drive-In with new releases that seem aimed at teenagers and young men. Even the Fall film festivals here are taking advantage of the Drive-Ins. The 58th New York Film Festival (Sept 18th-Oct 11th) went virtual nationwide but is also utilizing Drive-Ins in Queens, The Bronx and Brooklyn. The Woodstock Film Festival (Sept 30th-Oct 4th) is virtual and at a Drive-In in Woodstock, NY. WFF is also venturing outside it’s hometown base. There are double features at the Greenville Drive-In and the Overlook Drive-In in Poughkeepsie is hosting screenings as well.

I’ve ventured out to movie theaters and Drive-Ins both. As a single woman living with no one at high risk of COVID, I still chose carefully. When visiting my sister in Florida, we went to a small town theater that had low attendance at matinees even before lockdown. We had what amounted to a private screening of The Personal History of David Copperfield. We also went to a film that needs to be seen on a big screen, Tenet. There were only 5 people there besides us and everyone sat far apart.

Living in New York, it’s only a 40-min drive to get to Pennsylvania, where there are movie theaters open. I traveled there to see The Broken Hearts Gallery. Once again, I chose the first matinee and was treated to a theater all to myself. In every instance, I felt the staff were trying hard to comply with cleanliness and social distancing.

As someone who writes about film, I’m willing to travel long distances to see new releases. So when I learned that the Woodstock Film Festival was kicking off their festival with a screening of Julie Taymor’s new film, The Glorias, off I drove to Greenville, NY. Was it worth an hour and a half drive to watch a 2 1/2 hour film with a producer of the film (Sarah Johnson) introducing it? It was to me. I may have gotten home at midnight but there was an excitement about the gathering even with social distancing. There was a food truck that delivered food to your car, concession stand and even an outdoor bar. It felt festive and almost like I was attending a film festival!

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