Drive-In Movies Launch Behind Edmond Town Hall
Edmond Town Hall introduced a new offering last weekend, when a temporary drive-in movie experience debuted behind the historic building.
The Ingersoll Auto Pop-Up Drive-In Theater opened Friday, June 5, with a 9 pm screening of the 1993 feature Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. The Edmond Town Hall Board of Managers last week announced a lineup of Disney films of various genres including action, sci-fi, animated, and adventure offerings that will fill the first few weeks of the program.
Edmond Town Hall Operations Manager Sheila Torres said this week that opening weekend “went really well.”
Speaking to The Newtown Bee Monday afternoon, Torres said people “really liked” the new offering.
“A lot of young families have kids who have never been to the drive-in,” she said. “They were really excited. A lot of people told us they thought the experience was fun. They didn’t care that the movie was pretty old.”
The next two planned features are also older titles. Regardless, Torres believes people are looking for something to do that is away from their home.
“We’ve been locked away, and even though you’re in your vehicle, you feel like you’re part of the community again,” she said.
That idea was brought to life on Friday night. Attendees were in their vehicles, but many had windows rolled down to allow pre-screening conversations between cars.
“It’s a nice family thing to do, it’s easy on the pocketbook, and there’s definitely some novelty to it,” Torres said.
Tickets are $10 per vehicle, with an additional $8 Popcorn Special ticket also available for those who want to preorder a large bucket of popcorn, two cold bottles of water, and one small bag of chocolate M&Ms.
Grocery cart in front of them and safety vests on, Belle Phelps and Cicily Telesco took care of delivering the Popcorn Specials for Friday’s opening night.
The parking lot opens at 8:30 to allow staff to direct vehicles into parking spaces. Screenings then begin at the top of the hour.
Audio is provided through each vehicle’s sound system, which is tuned in to an FM station announced on the screen prior to each show.
Tickets must be ordered and paid for online in advance, whether for the movie/vehicle fee or refreshments. The town hall is using Eventbrite to coordinate the advance sales. Tickets and concessions are not sold on site.
Drivers must show the printed tickets through the closed window of their vehicle before being allowed to enter the parking lot.
Anyone leaving their vehicle for any reason must wear a mask. Restrooms are available through the building’s lower level.
DNR Laboratories installed the temporary movie screen on the western side of Edmond Town Hall on May 24. The company has also been responsible for technical support of the town hall and recent theater renovations, Torres pointed out this week.
“This system requires a different kind of projectors and sound system” than indoor theaters, she mentioned. “I really like that part of it,” she said of the sound system.
“You can adjust this to your liking,” she added. “In the regular theater, we have to pick a sound that works for the masses. I love that you can be in your car and you can turn it up or down, to your liking.”
She is also very pleased, she said, with the image quality.
“It’s great,” she said.
The June 5 screening was limited to 25 vehicles, to allow staff to work out any unplanned issues. As of Saturday, the parking lot opened to its full complement of 42 vehicles per show.
The feature film for the week of June 12-18 is Toy Story (1995), and Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) is planned for June 19-25. Tickets for any of those shows can be purchased now. Tickets sales close for each show at 8 pm each night.
Torres is very excited, she said, at the benefits of the online sales.
“Now we know what to expect, both for tickets and concession sales,” she said. Until last weekend, all box office and concession sales were at the door, paid in cash.
“We’re already seeing good numbers for next weekend, for Toy Story,” she said. A look at the theater’s Eventbrite page on June 10, in fact, showed that the June 12 and 13 shows are already sold out. “Everyone wants to see that, or see it again,” she added with a laugh.
Like other drive-ins, the staff of Edmond Town Hall will monitor weather ahead of shows. If very inclement weather is expected, cancellations will be posted to the town hall’s website and Facebook page by 6:30 the night of a screening, Torres said.
“E-mails will also be sent to those who have already purchased tickets,” she said. According to the Drive-In Cancellation Policy approved by the Board of Managers on June 9, ticket buyers will receive a credit code that can be used to buy tickets to another show.
Torres cautioned, however, that once a movie starts, refunds will not be issued if rain begins.
“If the weather turns after the movie starts, we can’t do anything about that,” she said.
In the event of a cancellation due to technical issues, ticket prices will be refunded, also according to the policy.
Refunds will be for the cost of each ticket. The service fee paid to Eventbrite cannot be refunded, Torres said.
“That’s part of using that service,” she said.
On May 1, Edmond Town Hall began hosting virtual movie screenings. In collaboration with Kino Marquee, screenings have been created through an effort developed to help independent theater offer movies and generate revenue during the COVID-19 closures.
Nationally, the program was rolled out days after cinemas began closing due to coronavirus concerns. Newtown’s is among at least 150 theaters to have launched the virtual marquee.
Virtual screening rooms have been set up by Kino Lorber, which shares 50 percent of gains, or about $6 after costs. Tickets are $12, and buyers can then view a movie on smart TVs or mobile devices for five days.
“Virtual movies are continuing,” Torres said this week. “For those who decide to do so, half of the proceeds come to us, so we’re not going to take that away.”
For those who enjoy going out to the movies, the Edmond Town Hall Board of Managers is also working to resume that popular option. Phase Two of Governor Ned Lamont’s Connecticut Reopening Plan will allow movie screenings to resume, with restrictions, on June 17.
Edmond Town Hall will follow its traditional schedule of opening a screening on Friday, which means its first offering will be on June 19, according to Torres.
The three movie options mean more people can enjoy movies at their own comfort level.
“Maybe some people may not feel right away that they want to come indoors,” Torres said. “We’re working really hard — partitions are up, a disinfection schedule is being followed.”
Additional work once the movie theater opens will include sanitizing every surface between the shows, in addition to the sweeping that used to be done between screenings. Those additional efforts may lead to fewer or later shows being scheduled, Torres said.
“But the audience has to be ready, too,” she admitted. If all three options remain in place, she said, “in a way it’ll be like three different theaters. There will be options for those who want to stay home, those who want to get out but not be indoors yet, and the interior theater.”
Of the newest offering, Torres is hoping the drive-in experience lasts all summer.
“Our sponsor has already said he will support us for the summer, 12 weeks,” she said. “We are so pleased at that generous offer.”
She is not the only one hoping for the continuation of the new offering. Tuesday morning, Torres shared with The Newtown Bee the following review the board had just received from someone who had enjoyed one of the recent screenings:
“Drive-in process was safe, organized, and well thought through. They should do this even during non-COVID summers!”