Movies behind the wheel are returning to the era of physical distancing

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TORONTO –
The pandemic has inspired many of us to go back in time – we cook more, learn new cooking techniques, plant our own vegetable gardens, sew our own masks.

Now, as communities search for safe ways to slowly reopen and bring entertainment outside the home, yet another explosion from the past is returning: the drive-in.

While some outdoor sites are hosting film screenings, others are creatively reinventing the classic car experience for the COVID-19 era.

In Paris, “Van Gogh, Starry Night” was a spectacular and immersive visual and sound festival that took the works of the Dutch artist and projected them from wall to wall to floor in larger than life sizes inside of a cavernous space.

Now, the creators are bringing a similar exhibit, “Immersive Van Gogh”, to Toronto in the 4,000 square foot space that previously housed printing presses for the Toronto Star. They present the 35-minute show as the world’s first immersive art exhibit.

“You come with only people from your household and you stay in the car,” said Corey Ross, a co-producer behind the series.

It is a temporary facility until people can visit on foot, but in the meantime, Ross says there is room to safely accommodate 14 cars at a time. The exhibit, which was previously seen in Montreal earlier this year, will be launched in mid-June and tickets for the preview of the drive-in are already sold out.

Elsewhere, pop-up outdoor movie theaters suddenly pop up everywhere.

Canadian rock group July Talk is planning a live concert in a drive-in this summer. A group in Saskatoon is hoping to install screens in multiple locations around the city so people can stop and watch from their car. Their first pop-up location screened Jurassic Park on Saturday. A Regina drive-in opened its doors this weekend at 50% capacity to accommodate the five-meter distance rule.

“The demand for drive-thru is enormous,” said Svetlana Dvoretsky. “Because people are just tired of being at home. We all need something to do. “

British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba allow drive-ins as part of its first reopening phase. The status of drive-ins elsewhere in Canada is less clear. In Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, religious services by car are now permitted as long as people stay in their cars and are parked two meters apart. In Ontario, drive-ins remain closed, although some theater owners hope to change that.

The already opened drive-ins have been a hit with families who are just happy to watch a movie outside of their home.

“Well, I think it’s great that they made the effort to put this in place and let people have fun watching a movie on the big screen,” said a young pop theater participant -up outside Red Deer, Alberta.

And in the real drive-thru cinemas in North America, there has been renewed interest, with activity booming where they have been allowed to reopen.

“In fact, I started crying when we stopped … it’s a touching moment,” said another drive-in participant.

“Being able to get out of the house and do something so nostalgic, together and fun – it means a lot. “

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