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The New Reality: COVID-19 produces drive-in revival

Drive-in movies might make a comeback in our ‘new normal’
Going to the movies will look very different in the near future, and this pandemic has created an opportunity for drive-in shows to become a popular outing again.

This is the fifth in a series of stories looking at the new reality of life during the COVID-19 pandemic in the Maritimes. You can find the full series here

Whether it’s a date or a family outing, going to the movies is a popular form of entertainment that is going to look very different during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

But that has created an opportunity to revive an old tradition.

“I believe it is going to be a great summer for drive-ins not only in Canada but North America,” said Don Monahan who owns the Sussex Campground and Drive-in in Sussex, N.B.

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He said his drive-in is getting a facelift of sorts.

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Monohan has renovated the big screen and concessions building with a revived look for the age-old summer tradition now experiencing a rejuvenation amid the pandemic.

“It is a great way to get out and perform and activity and at the same time be safe,” said Monahan.

He said that every night over the May long weekend 250 cars filled with families eager to get out of the house showed up to take in the movies.

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It was one of the busiest weekends since Monahan bought the more than 50-year-old drive-in adjoined to a campground last year.

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He credits the pandemic for the comeback

In keeping with calls for mandatory physical distancing, Monahan said the lot looks different these days.  Cars are parked at least six feet apart and he had to revamp that the canteen.

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“We created a one-way direction within the canteen so there is no crisscrossing and no one coming in direct contact with other patrons,” he said.

Drive-ins right across the country are expecting to draw large crowds as more moviegoers go old school.

READ MORE: ‘We’re very hopeful’: Manitoba drive-in theatres looking at a renaissance

For die-hard fans of the theatre experience, Sarah Van Lange, executive director of communications for Cineplex Entertainment said Canada’s only national theatre chain is hoping to open its 165 theatres across the country soon.

But she said any opening will be on a province-by-province basis.

“We will be taking guidance from local governments and health authorities and when they tell us when it is safe to open theatres in a particular province that is when you will see our buildings open,” said Van Lange.

When that time comes, she said they will limit the number of moviegoers to allow for physical distancing and showings will likely be staggered to cut down on lobby traffic.

READ MORE: Cineplex to close all theatres across Canada in response to coronavirus spread

“We are also looking now at how we can adapt our food services and concessions offerings as well,” she said.

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Van Lange said that the cineplex store, where people can rent and buy movies to watch at home, has become increasingly popular in the last few months as more and more people opt to simply watch from the comfort and safety of their couches.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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