By Zach Mosca
In the age of social distancing, going out to see a movie with family and friends presents more challenges than it has in the past. Many traditional movie theaters don’t allow for social distancing, and with the lack of new cinematic releases, drive-in theaters provide an incentive to watch a classic movie away from home.
Starting in the summer of 2020, drive-ins such as the Elm Road Triple Drive-In Theatre and Skyway Twin Drive-In, both located in Warren, have allowed families to enjoy an evening of entertainment under the stars from the comfort of their vehicles.
The Elm Road Drive-In is owned by Mark Hocevar and his wife, Sheri. Hocevar described a trip to the drive-in as not just a trip to a movie, but as an experience unlike any other.
“The people that have come and have never been to a drive-in in the last 10 to 15 years were absolutely amazed at the quality of the picture, the audio and, in our case, we are a full-blown restaurant in addition to a movie theater,” Hocevar said.
Hocevar also said drive-ins aren’t nearly as common today as they were in the 1960s. This means that for a drive-in to stay open, the staff needs to adapt to new trends and give patrons what they want and then some.
“We’ve transformed the business into an entertainment destination. It’s not just a movie and off you go. It’s an evening of entertainment. Unlike regular theaters, we have a personal and customized setting of your own vehicle, which allows our patrons to watch movies … however they choose underneath the stars,” Hocevar said.
In light of COVID-19, drive-ins have become more than just a destination for movies. Across the country, drive-ins host concerts, wedding receptions and graduation ceremonies. This allows for social distancing while still letting people make memories with family and friends.
Kelly Frazier, a first-year journalism major at Youngstown State University, had her high school graduation ceremony at the Elm Road Drive-In. Frazier said she actually preferred this method to a traditional ceremony.
“I feel like it was much better than how we normally would have done it. It felt more satisfying being in a more casual setting with your friends and stuff while still being socially distanced,” Frazier said.
Frazier also said she hopes drive-ins will continue to host graduations even after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I just felt like students enjoyed it more than the typical graduation, though I can’t speak for everyone. But it’s much more laid back and entertaining,” Frazier said.
According to Skyway Twin Drive-In owner Brain DeCiancio, another aspect making drive-ins stick out from traditional movie theaters is the food. There are many more items to pick from.
“We have what we call a Super Sampler, with several different appetizers on there. We have chicken, we have pizza, Philly cheesesteaks, mozzarella sticks, mac-and-cheese bites, plenty of different options,” DeCiancio said.
COVID-19 restrictions are in place, such as Skyway’s newly implemented, modified concession stand.
“Customers cannot come inside the concession stand. They put in an order at a pickup window so they can remain outside the building,” DeCiancio said.
Both the Elm Road Triple and Skyway Twin Drive-Ins have showings every weekend. Details and weekly schedules can be found on the theaters’ respective websites.