What’s old is new again in the time of COVID-19.
With most movie theaters in America closed this summer because of the pandemic, cities and towns from coast to coast are seeing a revival in drive-in theater experiences recalling the Fifties heyday of open-air entertainment and backseat shenanigans — and memorable scenes of sharp-dressed teens enjoying big-screen views from their cars in “Grease,” “The Outsiders” and more.
Opened in June, Skyline Drive on the East River in Greenpoint has a Manhattan skyline backdrop that can’t be beat. Screenings for the 250-car theater have been sold out all summer, according to a representative. New York’s drive-in fervor is likely to continue into fall when Pyer Moss designer Kerby Jean-Raymond is slated to present a drive-in experience to coincide with fashion week.
In Los Angeles, where the pandemic has put a lock on the company town’s summer blockbusters and red carpet premieres, Hollywood talent has been headlining drive-in events in real life instead. On the parking deck at The Grove shopping center, Charlize Theron hosted a screening of summer favorite “Mad Max: Fury Road” (while wearing a Dior T-shirt, natch) to benefit her Africa Outreach Project. At Hotel Figueroa in downtown L.A., Lena Waithe introduced her film “Queen and Slim” at a Women Under the Influence drive-in series supporting women filmmakers, diversity and equality, with a live DJ set by Mia Moretti.
Sony Studios, Amazon Studios and the Arclight cinema in Hollywood have also jumped on the drive-in model to offer something to the film-loving public, and beloved bookstore Book Soup even hosted a drive-in author reading in the old Tower Records parking lot in West Hollywood.
While some events have food trucks, refreshments and other diversions (Porsche, Fiji, Lavazza and Yola Mezcal have all sponsored drive-in events), guests are encouraged to socially distance and stay in their cars as much as possible. So, unlike in the Fifties, when teens donned poodle skirts, saddle shoes and leather jackets, today’s drive-in look is more quarantine-casual jeans, cool sneakers and a must-have face mask with flair.
That could change once the charity ball season starts. On Sept. 4, philanthropist Nancy Davis will hold what may be the first drive-in gala at the Rose Bowl with tickets starting at $1,000 and a chair committee that includes Alice + Olivia designer Stacey Bendet, Dee and Tommy Hilfiger, Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie and Joel Madden.
The “Drive-In Race to Erase MS Gala” will feature diner-style food from celeb hot spot Craig’s, live musical performances and a virtual look at Hilfiger’s fall 2020 Adaptive collection. The dress code? “Snazzy.”
Rev your engines.