Formula One makes way for drive-in cinema in Mexico

Mexico City (AFP) –


After the disappointment of seeing the Mexican Formula One Grand Prix canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Mexico City government has turned its F1 track into a drive-in cinema.

On a rainy Sunday, dozens of people drove up to Turn Four of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, which has been temporarily converted into the Autocinema Mixhuca.

The cinema allows movie goers to maintain social distancing while enjoying exclusively Mexican films.

Juan Manuel Bedwell, a veteran accountant, left home isolation to go back to a drive-in cinema for the first time in four decades, to watch the 2013 Mexican film "The Last Call," a comedy based on "Caligula," a play by Frenchman Albert Camus.

But instead of taking his girlfriend, this time Bedwell was accompanied by three children and three grandchildren.

The pandemic "is something we didn't expect, but we need to get out because if we stay locked up inside we'll get more depressed every day," Bedwell told AFP.

The new cinema has been organized by the capital's culture secretariat and has a capacity for 415 vehicles.

It will open every Sunday and Wednesday until August 19.

Drive-in cinemas first arrived in Mexico in the 1950s but gradually lost their popularity and disappeared.

"Due to the pandemic and the need for a 'new normal,' they have great potential," said Argel Gomez, Big Festivals director at the Mexico City culture secretariat.

It's not the first transformation of the race track, which has long hosted the country's biggest music festivals. During the pandemic, it is also serving as the site of a temporary hospital for coronavirus patients.

Mexico is the fourth worst hit country in the world by the coronavirus outbreak with more than 43,000 deaths, and sixth in number of cases with over 390,000 infections among its 127 million population.

For Ernesto Contreras, a director and former president of Mexico's cinematography academy, the drive-through movie theater is "a reason to celebrate" and he believes it will be a boon to Mexico's cinema industry.

"To the extent that we open these new possibilities, even though it's in the midst of a new alternative, we gain space for our cinema," he said.