There is nothing like pulling up to the colossal movie screen, and reclining the car seat, with the windows rolled down and that melted buttery popcorn smell in the air, while the starry night sky shines above. In Los Angeles, there are only a few more options for a vintage themed movie night like this, at the classic drive-in theater.
All of Los Angeles’s local drive-in’s have made the necessary changes to keep their theaters a fun and safe nostalgic outing for couples, friends, and families to enjoy, during the pandemic.
Ana Cebreros, a snack bar employee at the Mission Tiki Drive-In Theater, explains how COVID-19 has changed the way the snack bar operates. Now a limited number of people are allowed inside, temperatures are checked, people are advised to line up accordingly to ensure social distancing and when purchasing snacks there is a one person per transaction policy.
It has been made mandatory for both the cooks and cashiers to wear gloves and masks and now cooks are using utensils to prepare all the food.
“We used to have more items on the menu but because of COVID a lot of things had to be removed, like the cheeseburgers, those had to be eliminated,” Cebreros said. “And the items we still sell on our menu, are being prepared with increased precaution.”
At the Mission Tiki Theater, communication has been vital amongst employees during COVID-19. The team tries to ensure customers are having the safest and most enjoyable night at the drive-in.
“It’s not only safe, it’s not only cheap, it’s just overall a great experience,” Mission Tiki Drive-In customer service team member Joey Gibson said.
Gibson said he feels good to be giving back to the community in such a positive way and that it has been a fun experience being able to witness the progression of the drive-in theater in modern day pop-culture.
With many walk-in theaters shut down due to COVID-19, business at the Mission Tiki Drive-In Theater has been a gold mine.
“I was actually doing research, seeing how the drive-in was during the 50’s and I would say it’s been exactly the same,” Gibson said. “Every weekend we are sold out.”
In the event that walk-in theaters decide to resume business, it is uncertain if more people will venture back to the luxurious reclining seats at AMC or continue to enjoy movies in the comfort of their own vehicle at the drive-in theater.
“When regular movie theaters reopen, I feel like that will definitely take a lot of our business,” Gibson said. “Because of COVID, it will be a very unsafe environment compared to here, where you can comfortably sit in your car.”
To accommodate the bigger crowds this summer, the Mission Tiki Drive-In gives audiences a total of 2 movies to watch at the price of one. On Fridays and Saturdays, the first movie is played twice, once at the beginning and again at midnight, which gives audiences a total of 3 movies for $10.
Michelle Pamplona from Covina has been to Montclair’s Mission Tiki Drive-In plenty of times.
“I’ve only been to the Vineland Drive-In Theater in La Puente a couple of times,” Pamplona said. “I’m just used to the set up here, and the Tiki Drive-In has always shown a double feature unlike at other locations.”
The term double feature is used by moviegoers, to indicate when an audience is given the chance to watch 2 totally different movies in one sitting. The Vineland and Paramount drive-in theaters only permit single features, which is when audiences are given the chance to see just one movie in one sitting.
Pamplona appreciates how well the drive-in has responded to the current circumstances and new restrictions regarding COVID-19.
“I think it’s pretty isolated, there’s not many people just walking around unlike the mall where everyone’s all over the place,” she said. “Here the cars are socially distanced and everyone’s wearing masks. Now since there’s not many options to see movies because of COVID, this is the most that I’ve seen this place packed.”
Narine Gulesserian from Pasadena decided it would be cool to experience a night out at the drive-in with her friends before the summer heat disappears completely.
Gulesserien explains how the drive-in theater is a lot more ideal for a couples date night because the setting is so much more cozy and intimate.
“It’s actually my first time coming to the drive-in, I think it’ll be something fun,” Gulesserien said.
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