Drive-in revival: How COVID-19 saved the drive-in cinema
Social-distancing steers cinema lovers back to the humble drive-in theatre.
Cinema lovers are going back to the future and heading to the drive-in in droves. In these days of social distancing, the state’s three remaining drive-ins – in Coburg, Dandenong and Dromana – are enjoying renewed popularity since reopening after 10 weeks of shutdown.
Village Cinemas’ Coburg Drive-in, which has three screens and space for 900 cars, has recorded its best-ever audience numbers since reopening in the first week of June. “The opening week provided an all-time admissions record with over 10,000 people attending,” says Village spokesman Nicholas Robin. “Village Cinemas is delighted that the community are able to safely enjoy the big-screen experience once again.”
Operators expect this reignited popularity to continue, even when indoor cinemas reopen with limited seating on 22 June. Not only do drive-ins minimise concerns about social distancing, they’re also an affordable option in these straitened times, with Coburg charging from just $25 per carload while children under 12 get in free. RACV members get up to 30 per cent off individual Village tickets when bought online.
Nicolas says the drive-in revival is not confined to nostalgic baby boomers hoping to relive the drive-in experience. “We’ve got a diverse range of customers from young millennial students, nostalgic baby boomers, and families, especially those with young children, for $25 a carload.” In June they’re watching a calendar of retro favourites including Dirty Dancing, The Wizard of Oz and Quarantino Wednesdays featuring Quentin Tarantino classics, plus some recent releases.
It’s all good news for David Kilderry, who co-owns the independent Lunar Drive-in in Dandenong, which is also showing a mix of recent films and classics until new releases come on stream. David and his family have just invested $4 million in a 1950s-style diner at their drive-in, with the option of having meals delivered to your car.
He believes the investment will pay off. “There’s no doubt there’s a revival,” he says. “Our bookings mid-week are twice as busy as usual but we were already doing well – we had 400,000 people last year.
“Melbourne’s three drive-ins are about 50 minutes away from each other and draw on huge populations from different areas: Dandenong draws from Gippsland and the La Trobe Valley, Dromana for the whole Mornington Peninsula and Coburg from Melbourne’s vast northern and western suburbs.”