Movie and drive-in theaters have been finding ways to reopen and screen films that entertain families while complying with COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.
The Regency Theaters have adopted many different procedures to ensure safety of viewers. According to their website which features a guide to comfort, safety and cleanliness, Regency Theaters have several standard preventative measures like requiring masks unless eating, reduced seating capacity, and enforcing social distancing.
But the company has also implemented other strategies like plexi-glass safety panels at serving stations, regular disinfecting,superior air quality with increased air flow and enhanced A/C filters. They also promise that many locations now have Merv 13 air filtration along with air purification in auditoriums with UV Sterilizers installed in their heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system to ensure clean and fresh air.
Drive-in theaters have become very suited for cinema entertainment during the pandemic, so much so that some standard movie theaters are now being transitioned into drive-in theaters, according to Regency Theaters District Manager Andrew Gualtieri.
“The last couple days of August , we started our drive-in at our Van Nuys Theater,” Gualtieri said. “We basically bolted a forty foot screen to the side of our building.”
There have also seen a lot of highly anticipated movies become delayed due to COVID-19 related setbacks but even with the shortage of big named movies, theaters still have plenty to offer. The showings at the Van Nuys drive-in theater have been a mixture of new movies and old movie rentals which definitely offers plenty of options for families to go out and watch movies they already love on the big screen.
“We played ‘New Mutants’ for a week or two. And we played ‘The Croods’ which did really well for us,” Gualtieri said. “We can do about 67 vehicles per show, and families are really coming out to do something that they can do.”
With precautions put into place at nearly all theater locations and the transition of some standard theaters into drive-in theaters to minimize contact, many of Pierce College’s own students have been able to find themselves attending.
Allyson Roche, a Pierce student, went to a drive-in theater at the Outfest Film Festival to watch an early screening of ‘The Nowhere’ and attended the Street Food Cinema at the Santa Monica Airport to watch ‘When Harry Met Sally’ on Valentine’s Day.
Roche said going to watch a movie at the big screen from her car felt refreshing, but still prefers the standard movie theater experience.
“During COVID, it’s really exciting to make plans and anticipate them because it reminds me of the time before COVID,” Roche said. “However, the drive-in definitely doesn’t make up for a theater experience. I miss overhearing people’s reactions during the showing, sensing the tension and anticipating laughter from strangers around me. I just miss going through that experience with others.”
Matthew Alley, a Pierce student, had never been to a drive-in theater prior to the pandemic. Alley, went to see ‘Tom and Jerry’ at the Van Nuys Theater, said that he still prefers the experience of a standard movie theater, but the drive-in theaters are a happy medium given the circumstances.
“To me, there’s nothing like sitting in a theater with a bunch of friends with the big screen right in front of us,” Alley said. “We can’t really have that same exact feeling when we’re cramped in a car but all things considered I can’t really complain. It’s still a good time to get out of the house and finally watch some movies.”
Alley also explained how being able to remain in the car made him feel more secure for his protection and the protection of others.
“I pretty much stayed in my car the whole entire time,” Alley said. “I brought my own snacks and everything, which is something you can’t really do at the regular theaters.”
As the county remains to require masks and social distancing to fight the spread, drive-in theaters have become a great way to stay safe and still enjoy a movie.