Drive-in theaters (autocines in Spanish) had their heyday between the 1960s and ’70s. Since then, improvements and changes to home entertainment, from color television to cable TV, VCRs and video rental, changed the way we saw movies.
Additionally, the 1970s energy crisis led to the widespread adoption of daylight saving time (which caused drive-in movies to start an hour later) and lower use of automobiles, making it increasingly difficult for drive-ins to remain profitable.
In times of coronavirus, when social distancing is essential to stop the spread, activities such as drive-ins are returning.
In the United States, once numbering in the thousands, according to the United Drive-in Theatre Owners Association, there are only 305 operating drive-in movie theaters today. However, Insider.com reports that even as indoor theaters and other nonessential businesses close their doors, drive-ins may be getting a new lease on life amidst the pandemic.
“Drive-ins could make a huge comeback this summer,” box analyst Jeff Bock previously told Business Insider, especially as major movie releases are being pushed back.
An example is Germany, there are more and more requests to open this type of business. As reported by El Clarín, since the beginning of March, the German Federal Network Agency, the German regulatory office for telecommunications, assigned 43 radio frequencies for drive-ins throughout the country and there are 80 more requests.
Drive-in theaters have the advantage that a good movie can be enjoyed while keeping the distance between people; however, they require ample land to establish them.
This is why the need for space in cities, the transformation of consumption habits and other factors made drive-in cinemas to be displaced by other types of rooms and spaces.
On Monday, Costa Rica announced that starting on May 1, movie theaters (cines in Spanish) can re-open as long as they maintain social distancing. Meanwhile, the drive-in experience allows people to watch a movie projected on a screen from the safety of one’s vehicle.
“Drive-in movies are proving popular in a pandemic—just like 70 years ago … the call for the return of drive-in movie theaters has been a popular refrain on social media for obvious reasons,” says QZ.com
Can drive-in theaters revive in Costa Rica?
Ana Xóchitl Alarcón, director of the Centro Costarricense de Producción Cinematográfica (Costa Rican Center for Film Production), says it is possible, though limited spaces in the metropolitan area could be a hinderance.
“It could be a possible scenario in Costa Rica, although I think that there are not many large spaces available, at least in the city centers. Although the Cinema Center has made “open air” projections, at the present time, it does not have the equipment to do so,” said Alarcón.
The drive-in could be a great alternative to conventional cinemas given that massive activities will be suspended until at least September.