Are Drive-In Theaters Making a Comeback? 2020 | A short-lived drive-in in Prineville offers a nostalgic experience - but are drive-in movies here to stay? | Arts & Culture | Bend

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Best Of Central Oregon » Arts & Culture

Are Drive-In Theaters Making a Comeback?

A short-lived drive-in in Prineville offers a nostalgic experience - but are drive-in movies here to stay?


With the rise of “Netflix and chill” came the fall of “date night at the cinema” - and even before that came the fall of the original movie-going experience, the drive-in theater. For many Central Oregonians, drive-in movies are naught but a nostalgic relic of the past. For kids today, the phrase “drive-in theater” will likely bring about the same looks of perplexity as “record player” or “rotary telephone.” 
The only drive-in movie theater in Central Oregon will be closed by the end of May. - CAYLA CLARK
  • Cayla Clark
  • The only drive-in movie theater in Central Oregon will be closed by the end of May.
With movie theaters closed as a result of statewide social distancing protocols, drive-in theaters may be making a comeback. Are they here to stay, or will their presence be as fleeting as the stay-at-home orders themselves?

Kara Becker, owner of The Hub in Prineville and host of the only drive-in experience in the region, noted that drive-in movies offer a sense of nostalgia and connection that normal movie theaters do not.
Are drive-in theaters making a comeback? - CAYLA CLARK
  • Cayla Clark
  • Are drive-in theaters making a comeback?
"It's been really good, really fun," she said. "I have a lot of parents coming up to me after the movies and thanking me, because their kids never would've had this experience otherwise. They're glad that their children have the opportunity to experience the drive-in. I think it's really fun for families; I just don't know if the comeback will last for a few months or if more people will start showing interest, and more theaters will start popping up."

Becker explained that she was gifted an FM transmitter from a pastor that held a drive-in Easter church service in her empty parking lot. "He allowed us to borrow the transmitter, and we were like, 'Hey, hosting a movie night would be awesome.' Unfortunately, we'll only be showing movies through the end of the month. We've got movies slated for every Friday at 8:30. Next week we'll be showing Footloose, the week after that, Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? We want to show a combination of kid-friendly and adult movies."
Families gather in Prineville to watch "Pete's Dragon" from their cars. - CAYLA CLARK
  • Cayla Clark
  • Families gather in Prineville to watch "Pete's Dragon" from their cars.
Sadly, Becker's business will be shutting down for good at the end of the month due to an inability to pay rent after two months of extremely limited business. Are there plans for other Central Oregon drive-ins? A representative from the Deschutes County Fair and Expo explained that while there has been some outreach and interest, they do not currently have any plans to offer drive-in movies in the future.

The Source's own movie guru, Jared Rasic, explained that he had been looking into drive-in options for around a month with no luck. "Nowhere close-by is doing anything like that," he said. "I don't understand why there isn't a bigger push to bring drive-ins back. Why don't people like drive-ins anymore? Why are they so unsustainable? Regular theaters are filled with people that are either there to talk, make out or look at their phone every three minutes. A drive-in would be perfect... even more so now than they were in their heyday. A modern drive-in with wood-fired pizza, craft beer and good sound would be an absolute gold-mine."

After the amount of fun I had at Prineville's humble offering, I would have to agree. While there are no plans to open a drive-in in Bend as of now, there is no harm in staying optimistic.

Update: The Cascade Relays Foundation has been putting on drive-in movies at their warehouse (located at 1177 SE 9th Street) for the past month. Thank you to Scott Douglass for bringing this to our attention! "We are excited to be bringing a safe socially distanced entertainment option to Bend. So far, we've raised $2500 for Neighbor Impact and the family Access Network (FAN)," said Douglass.

Upcoming movie dates and times are as follows:

Fri., May 22:
Spies in Disguise (5:30pm)
Princess Bride (8:15pm)

Sat., May 23:
Spies in Disguise (10am)
Peanuts the Movie (6:45pm)
Ford VS. Ferrari (6:45pm)

About The Author

Cayla Clark

Cayla graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting, soon after realizing that playwriting is not a viable career option. Fortunately, this led her to journalism, and she is thrilled to be part of such a unique and fun-loving team. Upcoming local events? Send them her way!

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