Drive-in cinema summer tour set in US

New York (AFP) –


The team behind the Tribeca Film Festival is organizing a summer film series across the United States at drive-in theaters, which are experiencing a renaissance thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

Organizers are partnering with telecoms giant AT&T and big-screen company IMAX for the event, which will kick off on June 25.

Screenings of new, classic and indie films -- as well as special music and sports events -- will take place at drive-ins and other locations to be announced later on, along with the schedule.

"We're excited to give people something to look forward to this summer and reinvent a classic moviegoing experience for communities to enjoy together safely," said Tribeca festival co-founder Robert De Niro.

After putting on a digital version of its own festival, the Tribeca team announced it would work with the world's other top festivals -- Cannes, Venice, Toronto -- to stage a 10-day YouTube event from May 29.

Drive-in theaters, where filmgoers watch movies on a giant outdoor screen from their cars, are an indelible part of American pop culture. The first opened in 1933 in New Jersey.

At the height of their popularity after World War II, there were several thousand drive-ins across the country.

But the soaring cost of real estate in urban areas and the sheer number of movie theaters, along with the rising popularity of home video systems, led drive-ins to the scrapheap.

There are only 305 drive-in theaters left in the United States, according to the United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association.

Several of them have remained open as strict stay-at-home measures were put in place to help curb the spread of the coronavirus -- and with other theaters shut, business has been good.

The Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre in North Carolina reopened early this month, after being shut for a month.

Open seven days a week, it's only operating at half-capacity to ensure proper social distancing between cars. So far, the theater is sold out on weekends.

"Nobody seems to be afraid to come out," said owner Mike Frank, who said he's been approached to host other events, such as concerts and high school graduations.

Since late March, two churches have been organizing drive-in services at his site

"We're looking at a laser show," he said.