Drive-in theaters surge through pandemic


Since the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the United States, several businesses have bloomed while others have suffered or even closed. One classic American business that has been a major pandemic success story is the drive-in theater. 

Drive-in theaters, which found popularity in the 1950s and 1960s, became a relic of the past as the world of technology expanded to indoor movie theaters. But due to the need for a safe way to enjoy movies while maintaining proper safety precautions, this relic of a bygone era is seeing a resurgence.   

According to CNBC, “drive-in theaters usually cover 10 to 14 acres, which means they can hold up to 400-500 cars. There are just over 300 drive-ins left operating in the country, and Virginia is home to six of them. Newer generations want more stores and facilities instead of wasting empty land on a drive-in that people call ‘outdated’.”

Aaron Mull’s local guide on Google Reviews stated the Goochland drive-in theater is “a nice old fashioned drive-in and perfect for a date night it is definitely a treat. The staff is very nice from the ticket booth to the concession station. The prices are very favorable to the customer.” stated that “Safety guidelines that some drive-ins are taking include cordoning off every other parking spot, sanitizing the bathrooms more regularly, and keeping concession stands closed.” Major theater chains, such as AMC Theaters and Regal Cinemas have all shut down to promote social distancing.  

The Los Angeles Times reported, “a drive-in theatre requires little to no human contact…the only contact is with the theater’s staff when it comes to buying tickets.” As a result, people can enjoy movies safely with the close comfort of friends and/or family without worrying about catching COVID-19 from workers. Drive-ins have been given a temporary chance to make more profit, but at the end of the pandemic, traditional movie theaters will reopen, and the current support that drive-ins are receiving will fall. 

“At their peak, in the late 1950s, more than 4,000 drive-ins operated in North America. Numbers are inexact for 2019, but sources suggest that out of the $11 billion total box office, drive-ins accounted for about 1 percent of the take.”

Drive-ins theaters have made a larger profit in 2020 than in 2019, and with the prospect of a long pandemic-recovery period, their future looks bright.