Drive-in theaters bring back classics as AMC listens to America

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For those that didn’t grow up as drive-in movies were gasping their last breath, you can see what your parents and grandparents were talking about. While the Coronavirus has deadened many things, it’s also brought back things from the past that we didn’t realize we were missing.

Sitting in a car in front of a massive screen with whom you want in your car is close to being at home, but it also lets you breathe in some fresh air. It also gives a whole never experience with movie going.

Fun escapists films like “Jaws,” “Black Panther” and “Back to the Future” are just a few of the modern popcorn classics coming to the drive-in this summer.

Tribeca Enterprises, IMAX and AT&T on Monday announced the initial lineup for its summer series of films, comedy and football, running every weekend from July 2 through Aug. 2 in cities like Los Angeles, New York, Dallas, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Miami and Seattle.

There will be themed nights dedicated to sports (“Space Jam” and “Love & Basketball”), music (“Selena” and “Straight Outta Compton”), kids’ favorites (“Inside Out” and “The Lego Movie”), James Bond (“Goldfinger” and “Casino Royale”) and high school (“Mean Girls” and “Superbad”).

A July 4 celebration will include screenings of “Field of Dreams,” “The Wizard of Oz,” and “Apollo 13.” Other films include “The Dark Knight,” “BeetleJuice,” “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” and “Do The Right Thing.” Kid-friendly content will be shown during matinee times with more mature fare in the evenings.

“It’s in Tribeca’s DNA to bring people together in times of need,” said Jane Rosenthal, Tribeca Enterprises and Tribeca Film Festival co-founder and CEO. “The car provides that perfect vehicle that takes us back to another time — a time that some of us might not even remember! But it was a way to bring our industry and audiences together to have some summer fun.”

Rosenthal and Robert De Niro founded the organization in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. Drive-ins have been part of their mission since the beginning and when the pandemic interrupted traditional moviegoing, they started planning.

“We love going to the movies. We don’t want to lose going to the movies,” Tribeca CCO Paula Weinstein added. “This is an alternative to bring people together to remind them, even if you’re six feet apart in a car, how great the collective experience is watching movies together.”

Most indoor theaters have been closed across the country since mid-March because of the pandemic and many are gearing up to open by mid-July. It’s made the drive-in freshly relevant, given some indie films a chance to break through the noise and even provided a unique space for a movie premiere. Other forms of mass entertainment have been jumping on the drive-in bandwagon too: Live Nation on Monday announced its first-ever drive-in concerts series in the U.S. for July.

The Tribeca Drive-In series is not exclusively for movies either. There will also be live stand-up comedy and even some NFL-hosted events, the details of which will be announced later. Venues will include beaches (Nickerson Beach in Nassau County, New York, and Orchard Beach in the Bronx), stadiums (AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas and the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California) as well as conventional drive-in locations.

Tickets, which are free for essential workers, are currently on sale. A percentage of proceeds will be donated to Black Lives Matter.

AMC Listens To The People

Many big business forget about listening to their customers, but movie giant AMC learned a quick lesson when they claimed masks wouldn’t be mandatory upon reopening. They found out quickly that just because the White House is trying to pretend COVID-19 away doesn’t mean Americans are stupid.

The nation’s largest movie theater chain changed its position on mask-wearing less than a day after the company became a target on social media for saying it would defer to local governments on the issue.

AMC Theaters CEO Adam Aron said Friday that its theaters will require patrons to wear masks upon reopening, which will begin in mid-July. Customers who don’t wear masks won’t be admitted or allowed to stay.

“We think it is absolutely crucial that we listen to our guests,” Aron said. “It is clear from this response that we did not go far enough on the usage of masks.”

Rival chain Regal followed AMC’s lead. Spokesman Richard Grover said Friday that moviegoers must wear masks in all its theaters as well.

AMC Theaters wasn’t the first to say it would defer to officials on the mask issue. That policy was identical to what Cinemark announced earlier this month. Cineplex Inc., which has a 75% box office market share in Canada, said they will leave it up to moviegoers to decide if they wear a face mask inside their theaters. Company spokeswoman Sarah Van Lange said they are taking the lead from public health authorities and provincial guidelines. She said employees will be required to wear masks.

Most major retailers require masks for customers only where local rules mandate it.

But the AMC plan hit a nerve for many on Thursday and #boycottAMC quickly became a trending topic on Twitter.

The outrage was further flamed by one of Aron’s comments in an interview with the Hollywood trade Variety that implied that taking a hard stance on mask-wearing was a political matter.

“We did not want to be drawn into a political controversy,” Aron said. “We thought it might be counterproductive if we forced mask wearing on those people who believe strongly that it is not necessary.”

He also said that he thought the “vast majority of AMC guests will be wearing masks” and that he planned to lead by example and would be wearing a mask himself.

The interview came on the same day that California started requiring people throughout the state to wear masks in most indoor settings and outdoors when distancing isn’t possible.

While public health officials say wearing a mask is important in helping stop the spread of COVID-19, not wearing one has become a political statement for people who say it violates their freedom or exaggerates the threat of the coronavirus. President Donald Trump has pushed back against masks, even as the virus has killed more than 100,000 Americans this year.

Earlier Friday, Alamo Drafthouse, which operates around 40 locations in the U.S. said that it would be requiring that guests wear masks at its theaters, with a caveat for eating and drinking. Those without masks, it said, would be given one. AMC plans to sell masks for $1.

Most indoor U.S. theaters have been closed since mid-March because of COVID-19. But both independent locations and major chains are readying to reopen within the next month.

AMC said it will open 450 of its U.S. locations on July 15, with the goal of having most of its theaters in operation by July 24 for the opening of Disney’s “Mulan” and Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” the following week.

Big caveat: Don’t be surprised if those plans go asunder as the Coronavirus is on the rise in a big way in America. Hopefully, they can put these films into drive-ins for a different type of event film. They deserve it.