Bummed that so many summer concerts, festivals and sporting events have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic? A throwback to the 1950s is turning out to be the season’s entertainment salvation.
As we enter our summer of social distancing, drive-in theaters are experiencing a veritable revival thanks to the winning combination of fresh-air surroundings and stay-in-your-car seating.
Along with the 300-odd classic drive-in theaters scattered around the country, pop-up drive-ins are appearing, well, everywhere — in the parking lots of malls, disused concert venues and sports stadiums as well as in open fields. The phenomenon is happening in big cities like Omaha, Nebraska and small towns like Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. From Shoreline, Washington to Brevard, North Carolina, and from Chicago, Illinois to Charleston, West Virginia, drive-ins are popping up like daisies.
And they’re not just for movies these days. Earlier this month, Keith Urban became the first major artist to do a drive-in concert when he performed for a few hundred medical personnel sheltering in cars and trucks at the Stardust Drive-In Theatre in Watertown, Tennessee. Around the country, drive-in venues are hosting movie showings, concerts, comedy nights, kid shows and more.
And watch this space: During an investor call this month, Live Nation President and CEO Michael Rapino said that the events promoter would test drive-in concerts over the summer in the parking lots of its 40 amphitheaters. That could bring some big-name performers to a drive-in near you.
In the meantime, mark your calendars for these car-centric events that could take your summer from meh to marvelous.
This page will be updated as new events are announced and line-ups are extended.
May 16-June 14, Derry, NH: Tupelo Music Hall Drive-In Experience
Indoor concerts may be banned for the foreseeable future, but the Tupelo Music Hall in Derry, New Hampshire made a quick pivot to drive-in entertainment in its front parking lot. The schedule offers a bit of everything, from acoustic musical performances to comedy nights and kid shows.
How to attend: For information and ticket, see the event’s website.
May 21-June 6, St. Louis, MO: Drive-In St. Louis
The parking lot of the closed St. Louis Outlet Mall has turned into a stellar drive-in venue hosting live music and movies, complete with a huge stage, five LED jumbotron screens, and an FM transmitter pumping sound into car car stereos. Each night promises music and a movie, with the headliner, blues artist Jeremiah Johnson, slated to perform on June 6.
How to attend: Concerts and movies are scheduled every night through May 30 and June 5-6. See the full schedule and buy tickets on the event’s website.
Begins June 3, Dallas, TX: DIFF Drive-In Series
The Dallas International Film Festival is one of the many events that didn’t happen as scheduled this spring. As a consolation, festival organizers are hosting a series of summer drive-in movie nights at Four Corners Brewing Company, south of downtown Dallas, where films will be projected on an enormous Samsung screen. The series kicks off with The Goonies on June 3 and will run through the summer.
How to attend: For information, see the DIFF’s Facebook page.
June 4-7, Arlington, TX: Concert in Your Car
With big-league baseball on hold until July, the Texas Rangers are putting to good use their brand new Globe Life Field stadium — or, at least the parking lot — by hosting a four-day concert series that’s “designed to give music fans the live show experience, while still maintaining social distancing.” The line-up for the Concert in Your Car series includes the Eli Young Band, Whiskey Myers, Pat Green, the Josh Abbott Band and Kevin Fowler.
How to attend: Buy tickets on the event’s website.
June 18-July 12, Regional: Christian Music Concert Drive-In Series
Two stars on the Contemporary Christian Music circuit — seven-time Grammy winner TobyMac and platinum-selling Newsboys United — will be performing at drive-ins in a dozen cities throughout the Southeast and Midwest in June and July.
The tour will have a decidedly retro vibe as it skips around to some of the country’s classic outdoor venues, like the circa-1965 Kenda Drive-In Theater in Marshall, Arkansas; Highway 21 Drive-In in Beaufort, South Carolina; and the 66 Drive-In, a historic theater on U.S. Route 66 in Carthage, Missouri.
How to attend: Find dates and buy tickets on the event’s website.
Begins June 25, Across the USA: Tribeca Drive-In Film Series
Thank Robert De Niro and his partner Jane Rosenthal for bringing what promises to be a terrific summer film series to drive-in theaters across America.
Their company, Tribeca Enterprises, in partnership with IMAX and AT&T, has launched an initiative to “provide families with a safe, comfortable entertainment experience in cities and towns across the country, as the nation takes steps to emerge from coronavirus lockdowns,” according to a statement.
The series will present a mix of new, classic and independent films, as well as special music and sports events. De Niro framed the project as a way to “reinvent a classic movie-going experience for communities to enjoy together safely.”
How to attend: Tribeca Drive-In’s calendar, ticket information and locations will be announced in the coming weeks on TribecaFilm.com. Tribeca Drive-In is working with the United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association, which has over 140 member theaters in 40 states.
June 26-27, Fort Collins, CO: Beanstalk at the Drive-In
A highlight of Colorado’s summer music calendar, the well-loved Beanstalk Music & Mountains Festival usually takes place on the banks of the Colorado River, nestled in a drop-dead-gorgeous mountain valley that’s an outdoors lover’s paradise.
This year, festival goers will gather to watch a half dozen bands perform live from their cars, at the Holiday Twin Drive-In in Fort Collins. The host band, Magic Beans, has been building a reputation as one of the premier young jam acts in the country, and four other bands round out this year’s line-up.
How to attend: Buy tickets on the event’s website.
July-August, New York City, NY: Uptown Drive-In
This summer, New York City’s coolest fest is happening in the Bronx. Every weekend starting in July, Yankee Stadium’s parking lot will turn into a giant drive-in carnival complete with a gigantic stage offering live music performances, big-screen movies, games, raffles, giveaways and more — along with carside dinner service from some of the Big Apple’s best street vendors. Attendees will be able to view the entertainment through their windshields and listen through their car radios.
Uptown Drive-In plans to offer evening experiences on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and a daytime family-friendly brunch series on Saturdays and Sundays.
The event is the brainchild of MASC Hospitality, the NYC-based company responsible for the Bronx Night Market and the Bronx Beer Festival.
How to attend: All-inclusive tickets will be available online only, on a first-come, first-served basis. Sign up here for alerts.
July 7-16, Skowhegan, ME; 23rd Maine International Film Festival
Now in its 23rd year, the popular Maine International Film Festival (MIFF) — an event the Boston Globe called “the best-curated film event in New England” — is on the move this summer. The festival will take place at the Skowhegan Drive-In Theatre, a mainstay venue that’s been entertaining crowds in central Maine since 1954. The festival program will be announced in late June.
How to attend: Buy passes on the event’s website.