Boost of Drive-Ins, Downfall of Theaters

A gaze into how drive-ins have been gaining more attention for their entertainment and safety. Along with the decline in the want for attending movie theaters.


The Twin Drive-In Theater sign lights up showing what movies it is playing Sept. 26. “Mean Girls” and “Tenet” were the last two movies the theater showed this year. photo by Lucy Doerflinger

by Sydney Allen, Photo Editor

Only seven months ago, hundreds of people would assemble into a tiny movie theater. No one leaving space for their neighbors, all close together as if the movie theater goers were a tiny family. Now, blockbuster movies are tanking in the box office due to the decline in movie theater openings. But not every entertainment industry is fighting to stay alive. 

Drive-ins have gained more attention lately due to all the safety precautions that come with COVID-19. More people have been sitting in their cars and watch movies rather than going to a movie theater in person. Senior Ella Tomasic agrees that drive-ins are an excellent form of entertainment. 

“I mean, I love the drive-in and it’s perfect and it’s always been there but people have just kind of, I guess preferred the movie theater, but I think the overall atmosphere of the drive-in and kind of the community is so much fun,” Tomasic said.

Movie theaters have seen a 65.7% decline in revenue due to COVID-19 according to The Hollywood Reporter. Going to the movie theater now is a risk, and not a common thought about activity anymore due to the 8.26 million COVID-19 cases in the US as of Oct. 20.  

“I’m not super eager to be going back to movie theaters,” Tomasic said. “I mean, I will. But I think I’d prefer going to the drive-in over the movie theater.” 

Movie theaters have begun to open back up with the coming of fall and movies released to theaters once again. They have implemented changes that allow movie theatergoers to watch movies while still keeping 6 feet from others. Freshmen Sophelia Shook has visited a movie theater and said that it was a different experience being back. 

“It was really strange to see everyone so spread apart and signs all over the place,” Shook said. “And they were only letting people in by like, reservation. And a lot of snack bars were closed down and soda machines.” 

A certain well-known global theater company, AMC Theaters, has implemented changes to the way they run their business. They have implemented  “Safe and Clean” policies which can be found on the AMC website. Part of the AMC Safe and Clean policies are required masks, updated cleaning procedures, and socially distanced seating. 

“They definitely have a bunch of changes like social distancing, and they don’t do a lot of popcorn,” Shook said. “It’s very limited.” 

Junior Bella Avery felt differently about movie theater changes. When presented with the option to go back to a movie theater, even after they sanitize and enforce all safety rules, she still was hesitant in wanting to go back. 

“I would actually like the drive-ins to be open, and I’d rather go there,” Avery said. 

All three girls have shared that they prefer to be in their own car and snacks rather than going to a theater in person. With this newfound love for drive-ins, the want for them to be open all the time is a new need considering most drive-ins only stay open for the summer. The Boulevard Drive-In, a popular Kansas City theater, opens in April and closes after Labor Day — only being open for a few short months.

“I was really, kind of disappointed when the drive-in — the Boulevard Drive-In — closed for the summer,” Avery said. “And so I’m not sure where I will be going but I definitely think that they should be open year-round because it now has this new audience, and I’m sure they could probably try and stay open and they’d probably gain even more of an audience being open year-round.”

According to CNBC, around 5-10% of drive-ins in the US have seen an increase in revenue due to COVID-19, which is only around 20 theaters nationwide. The decline in the interest of movie theaters may open opportunities to drive-in owners and teenagers wanting to see a movie on a weekend. 

“Yeah, I don’t think I will honestly, a lot of, a lot of it has to do with that they just aren’t doing a whole lot of movies in there, and I just don’t think it’s worth it,” Tomasic said. “Honestly, I’d rather spend my time and money at the drive-in than another movie theater.”