Columbus drive-in theater sees boost in attendance, teams with Wexner for special showings

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some drive-in movie theaters have seen a tremendous boom in business in central Ohio.

One of those theaters, the South Drive-In, has partnered with the Wexner Center for the Arts to host a summer film series.

Sunday night, that film was E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

With audiences returning to see films on the big screen once again, drive-in movie theaters are experiencing some of the highest attendance they’ve had in years.

“Even though you’re in a car, it did feel communal, and you have an audience, and enjoying the film kind of the way you should,” said Chris Stults, associate curator with the Wexner Center for the Arts.

Wexner and the South Drive-In formed a partnership in early April, showing short films on the big screen.

The response from audiences was so positive, the two decided to bring it back again this summer.

Here in Columbus, the Wexner Center for the Arts and the South Drive-In Theater formed a partnership in early April showing short films on the big screen.

The response from audiences was so positive, that they decided to bring it back again this summer.

“We were able to open it up to over 300 people, as opposed to, originally, it was going to be 180 in order to keep space in between cars,” said Wexner Manager Jean Pitman. “And people don’t have to wear masks. They can, of course, but it’s not required.”

Pitman said due to the lifting of Ohio’s health orders, they were able to relax certain restrictions and bring in the larger crowd.

Some audience members said watching films outdoors and spread apart feels far better than returning to movie theaters.

“For me personally, I’m not quite ready to go into a theater, so this is a perfect middle ground, to be getting out and seeing a movie at the same time,” said attendee Sioux Cavanaugh.

Others said being able to support the drive-in as well the arts center at the same time is a win-win.

“So it’s nice to have access to this and it’s just a good time,” said attendee Jessie Mahler.

“To support a local business like this, especially a drive-in, there aren’t many left, so the fact that we have one here in Columbus is just fantastic,” Cavanaugh said.

The summer film series will continue through August with a showing of Escape From New York on July 15 and Do The Right Thing on Aug. 12.

Managers at the South Drive-In said last summer was one of their most profitable seasons ever, due to so many people wanting to enjoy an activity outdoors, and they’re hoping this year will be the same.

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