With most U.S. theaters remaining shuttered due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, exhibitors nationwide have been crafting innovative solutions to keep their businesses afloat during the shutdown. For some, like the Florida-based chain Epic Theatres, those solutions have included temporary—and often highly improvised—conversions to the once-voguish drive-in format.
“We pulled an old screen out of storage and built a frame from PVC pipe, [then] hung the screen over the side of our largest auditorium wall,” says Epic Theatres co-owner and IT director Weegee DeMarsh, who, along with brother and co-owner Joe DeMarsh, opened a pop-up drive-in at Epic’s Deltona location on March 20. Though they were later forced to remove the screen due to looming summer rains, the DeMarshes didn’t let that stop them. In a decidedly makeshift but highly effective solution, they proceeded to paint the auditorium wall white.
“That has worked out nicely,” says Weegee. So nicely, in fact, that Epic has since duplicated the formula at its Clermont and St. Augustine locations.
Though drive-in conversions remain exceedingly rare—indeed, many U.S. states simply won’t allow them during the pandemic—as struggling theaters scramble for ways to generate revenue amidst the unprecedented shutdown, their implementation has become increasingly common.