How Drive-in Movies are Inspiring Socially Distant Experiences

While old trends becoming new again is a relative constant in some industries, such as fashion, it’s unclear how many of us foresaw the return of the drive-in movie theater in 2020. However, given the constraints put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, drive-ins have seen a huge resurgence – especially in states where citizens are no longer sheltering in-place.

It makes sense, after all. Virtual experiences have been a source of entertainment while sheltering in-place, but many consumers want to get out of their homes and enjoy some semblance of life as they did prior to the pandemic. Drive-ins enable that and help assuage any anxieties that movie-goers might have about being in an enclosed, crowded theater. As a result, drive-in theaters across the country are bustling, and other businesses – like the Bel Aire Diner in Astoria, Queens – are transforming their spaces to offer drive-in movie nights.

Last Friday marked the first showing for the Bel Aire’s pandemic drive-in, and 35 vehicles of attendees were able to watch Grease while enjoying a movie-themed food menu in addition to the diner’s normal fare. Masked NYPD officers were on-hand to ensure social distancing, while Bel Aire employees delivered food and retrieved garbage from attendees’ cars. This week, they’ll have a double showing of Dirty Dancing, with attendees paying $20 to hold a spot – half of which go toward a food/drink credit and the other half to fund an upcoming luncheon bash for the local 114th Precinct.

Though there can only be so many drive-in theaters, the concept is illustrative of the types of events that will inspire confidence and excitement in consumers as the country gradually re-opens. Below, we share other examples of this sort of creativity in adapting live experiences and how brands might get involved.


Drive-in theaters are seeing a huge resurgence due to the COVID-19 crisis


How Fairs are Adjusting Ahead of Time

Across the country, county and state fairs are a staple of summer months, and the harsh reality is that many of these events are unlikely to take place in standard form. According to Food & Wine, they’re aware of that and are already adjusting accordingly. In California, the Big Fresno Fair has been running a weekly drive-thru fair food festival, offering consumers an opportunity to hop in the car, pass through the carnival lot, and grab offerings ranging from taco trios and kettle corn to margaritas. Other fairs in states like Missouri, Florida, Ohio, and even New York, are doing the same thing, and we can expect this trend to remain at the forefront throughout the summer.


How an Event Designer Revived Prom and Graduation

Though COVID-19 caused the cancellation of many of her events, event designer Alexandra Rembac wanted to find a way to bring experiences to people’s homes. Inspired by the trend of birthday car parades, she dreamt up elevated prom and graduation experiences for high schoolers in a Los Angeles suburb. Students were invited to drive to each event in their cars and enjoyed music from live performers as they waited for their turn. Each event had appropriately themed photo opportunities, signage, decorations, and giveaways, all while allowing for proper social distancing. While no one will mistake a drive-by prom or graduation for the traditional experience, it gave seniors a chance to have a special moment in spite of the circumstances.


How Brands Can Get Involved

Though states are beginning to open and loosen restrictions, the reality is that the summer months are set to be a bit different than most years for many of us. For brands, that creates an opportunity to dream up live experiences that bring joy and entertainment to consumers who may be missing out on some of their favorite summertime traditions. With cars serving an effective role in maintaining a safe social distance, a space as simple as an empty lot can serve as a blank canvas for a creative brand experience. If your brand is looking to create connections with consumers in the coming months as we continue to navigate this crisis, contact us today to learn more.




Sources: “NYC Drive-In Theater Attracting Big Crowds Thanks to Coronavirus.” NY Post (2020), “Fair Food is Pivoting to Drive-Thru This Summer.” Food & Wine (2020), “Can Socially Distanced Pop-Ups Bring Back Live Events?” BizBash (2020).

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