Grab your family and ask your parents to dust off their car keys because drive-in movie theaters are popping up across the state and allowing people to safely get out of the house for a little family film fun.
The concept is simple: with a large screen that lights up as the sun goes down, people can watch a movie from the comfort of their own cars, much like in the old days!
Earlier this spring, as movie theaters remained closed and people were looking for a way to get out of the house, pop-up drive-in theaters began opening across Phoenix. Around the Valley, you can find theaters at a variety of outdoor locations, such as Schnepf Farms and shopping centers.
There haven’t been any big new releases for the last few months, so the theaters are showing movies that cater to all sorts of tastes—from classics and horror movies to newer releases, such as “Onward” and “Sonic the Hedgehog.” All of the drive-ins are observing social distancing guidelines and taking steps to limit contact between people, from only allowing one family at a time to access restrooms to limiting concessions.
In Tucson, the Cactus Drive-In Theatre is hosting pop-up drive-in movies on a giant inflatable screen three or four nights a week. The people behind the pop-up have a goal of bringing a permanent drive-in theater to the city. Currently, West Wind Glendale 9 is Arizona’s only old-school drive-in still in operation.
Drive-ins have actually been around for more than 100 years as they first appeared in the 1910s! The first patented drive-in opened in June 1933 in New Jersey, and it was advertised as a place where the whole family was welcome. The idea really took off and drive-ins gained popularity, especially in the 1950s and 60s.
At their peak, there were more than 4,000 drive-in theaters across the United States. That number has decreased over the years and now there are about 330 drive-in theaters still in operation. Who knows, maybe they will regain some popularity this summer if the pop-up drive-ins are successful!