The Drive In Theater Should Make a Comeback During COVID-19
An idea for how movie theater owners can service their customers in a creative way.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how companies that have adversely impacted by the Coronavirus outbreak can re-purpose the assets and resources they have to try to stay in business.
One of the businesses that has been dominating my thoughts is movie theaters. One of my favorite movie theater experiences was when I went to go see the first showing of The Dark Knight at the Studio Movie Grill in Dallas, Texas with a bunch of my friends. The theater was packed, the food was delicious, and the movie was awesome. I walked out of that movie jacked up. Christian Bale’s performance as Batman was so awesome and relatable to the kind of characters that I like to root for.
As we all know, no one’s been able to root for any heroes in the movies lately. And that sucks.
My family has a ranch that’s between Houston and Dallas. It’s my favorite place in the world. When I used to live in Dallas, I would drive down to the ranch on Highway 45. It was a three hour drive and the scenery, while nice, isn’t overly memorable, with one exception.
Just after Ferris, I would pass a drive-in movie theater. It looked awesome and I always wondered how fun it would be if I actually had the time to actually go see a movie with a lady friend or some family. Wouldn’t it be cool to experience movies like my parents and grandparents did and watch a movie from the comfort of my own car? And for those old-folks who actually got to live this up during their adolescence, wouldn’t this be a nice bit of nostalgia for them to take part in?
Well, what if that could…now?
Movie theaters in the cities and suburbs still have access to kick butt movies and many of them have large parking lots. So wouldn’t it be cool if they recreated the drive-in theater experience now to bring customers in the door? This would give all of us an excuse to safely go outside, either for date night, or to give the kids something to do. I’m sure, if done safely, people would love it.
The Pop-Up Drive-in for Moviegoers During The Coronavirus Pandemic
Leverage the Parking Lot
Movie theaters are usually the anchor tenant of a strip center or one of the main attractions at a mall. For strip centers and malls, I’m guessing that there aren’t many stores open right now, so the parking lots are pretty empty.
Theaters can secure a big screen and put it in front of the movie theater. If you want to limit the amount of human interaction, install an automated ticket taker at the entrance like you see at parking garages. Moviegoers can pay for their ticket online in advance and scan the ticket bar code from their phone. Or, they can buy their ticket in person from the automated system as you would in a parking garage. Theaters can then have marked sections for guests that correspond to the section on their ticket or digital ticket. Everyone can get back a bit of normalcy while still staying safely separated in their cars.
In terms of the listening experience, if everyone’s in their car and they have their own space, then you could either hand out headphones like they do at silent silent discos or leverage a specific radio station frequency or have some other type of technology that’s available so that everybody can enjoy the movie safely.
Sell food and beverages. Or let people bring their own.
To solve the snack bar issue, customers could purchase food and beverages from their movie theater app and order their food. When the food is ready, you could have an employee deliver it to their car with gloves and a mask, or customers could be notified to come, one at a time, to pick up their food from a window.
I’d also suggest letting people bring their own stuff. It doesn’t get you revenue but it certainly makes things safer and easier for everyone. Especially if you’re unsure about how much capacity your kitchen can handle.
When a customer needs to use the bathroom, there would be 6 foot markers that indicate where people can stand in line. Or if you want to get real technical, have customers use their app to get in line. Then, open the theater up for customers to use the bathroom and then when they leave, an attendant can indicate in the app that the person’s left so that the next person can go in and use the bathroom.
Obviously, this works best at night, but if the parking lot was big enough, you could probably run multiple movies at the same time and get tons of moviegoers to come. Everybody’s looking for an excuse to safely get out of the house, period.
Am I crazy to think this is possible?
Any movie theaters interested in taking a shot and reopening during the lockdown as drive-in cinemas?
If you’re the first one able to pull off the logistics and make it safe, I’m sure that you’d get tons of national and local news attention and you’d make a ton of movie buffs VERY happy. Then you could give yourself a pat on the back for getting creative with your customer service and earning some revenue amidst the stay at home order.
I’m curious to hear your thoughts and ideas for how to make this drive-in experience safe and profitable for movie theater owners and operators.
Please share your comments below.