I don’t know about you, but it’s been a while since I’ve gone to the movies. Sure, the big theater chains are finally trying to require masks, but I’m not sure I’ll be ready to go back until I’m vaccinated. Good thing New York City just got a drive-in theater.
The notion that drive-in movies might be a solution for the cinema-starved during the pandemic isn’t new or original. Our very own David Tracy even built his own set-up so he could share the home-theater experience with his friends while keeping social distance. And while David’s set-up is damn impressive, I’m not sure it can compete with what has been set up on the Greenpoint waterfront along the East River in Brooklyn.
The Skyline Drive-In has been operating for a number of weeks in an empty lot situated in a prime riverfront location. An abandoned piece of a warehouse holds the screen up in front of viewers while on the other side of the river the lights of Manhattan begin to twinkle as the sun sets and the films begin.
These days, as film studios delay the release of suspected blockbusters to wait for what they hope will be better box-office numbers down the line, the selection at the Skyline is mostly classics, but that doesn’t bother me one bit. My girlfriend and I caught Grease last night (a perfect drive-in movie if you ask me, problematic plotline notwithstanding) and while we didn’t get stranded, we didn’t want to leave.
We arrived early so we could get a prime spot and so we could watch the sun go down over Manhattan. Though I was lucky enough to grow up going to the drive-in, I have to say that, despite relatively small screen compared to what I remember in Mendon, MA, it’s hard to beat a city skyline sunset as a backdrop.
In terms of the experience, the sound comes in through an FM transmitter which means you’ve gotta have your car on in accessory mode or you can bring a radio and sit in folding chairs (BYOC at this point). Eventually, they’d like to phase in a walk-in situation which would be great for carless. New Yorkers. That’ll probably have to wait for a later phase of reopening to come into effect, though.
Probably the best part of the drive-in is that it wasn’t just the movie that was fun to watch. Just like any other drive-in, the people watching and carspotting are a huge draw as well. We probably belabor the point that New York is a vastly underrated car culture city here at Jalopnik, but there was a Morgan 3-Wheeler present (and it wasn’t even Alex Roy’s!) along with a few Hellcats and some other fun things. As the Drive-In picks up steam, I’m sure we’ll see some more odds and ends show up.
I was sure that when I got taken to the drive-in as a kid, I was experiencing the very tail end of an era, one that actually began back in 1933. My parents made sure to let me know how lucky I was to be there, that’s for sure. Now it seems like we may actually see a resurgence of drive-ins as people miss the movies more and more. At $59 a car, it’s not cheap by any means, but it sure is special. So come on everyone, let’s go to the drive-in!