Drive-in theaters expect busy summer with movie showings and concert series


BRISTOL, Tenn. (WJHL) – The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way students graduate, how people go about their day-to-day duties at work, and has even gone as far as impacting summer traditions.

Typically, the summer months tend to be the biggest time of the year for the box office as new movies hit the big screen, but with theaters closed and movie production halted, for the most part, the fate of movies in theaters hangs in the balance. However, this hasn’t been the same problem for drive-in theaters.

Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia are home to a few drive-in theaters who have seen a boom in business since the summer months began. Some owners are attributing the uptick in business to those looking for a fun activity that still complies with social distancing guidelines.

These area drive-in theaters have been abiding by CDC guidelines, ensuring a safe experience. While new movies aren’t out at the moment, the classics and reruns of popular films are still drawing crowds.

“We’ve had good success, we’ve had good box office hits with these older movies but until these film companies decide to start putting stuff out, we’re going to stay in this older content,” said State Line Drive-in Owner/Operator, Andy Wetzel.

Wetzel told News Channel 11 they are a family business and don’t run movies rated past PG-13. If the weather is good and a popular movie is slated for the evening, he said they usually see good business but it has been exceptionally great since the start of this summer.

During the pandemic, they’ve hosted a number of events at their venue including graduations, gender reveals, and even some dance recitals, but he said the best events are still to come.

State Line Drive-in in Elizabethton along with Park Place Drive-in over in Marion, Virginia are two area venues planning to show the Garth Brooks concert experience. 300 theaters in total are planning to show the concert event.

“So far the buzz here around town has been pretty good. I think it will probably sell out pretty quick,” said Park Place Drive-in Theater Owner, Jerry Harmon.

Park Place has already announced the one-night-only concert on their Facebook page. Garth Brooks will be shown on Saturday, June 27th with other top musicians expected to record special concerts for drive-ins this year.

“It’s not just Garth, there’s a whole series of concerts that we can do if we choose that have great artists in there that cover different genres of music so it’s not just country,” said Wetzel.

Twin City in Bristol has not decided if they will be showing the concert yet, but they have their heart set on showing new movies to be released in late July. The owner of Twin City Drive-in, Danny Warden says he hopes the busy summer stays that way and new customers come out and experience the magic of drive-in movies this summer.

“So many new customers and of course I still have my old ones and I think that’s one reason we’re doing so well and they’re just as nice and appreciative as can be, it’s a pleasure,” said Warden.

Warden says the summer is usually busy up until race time, and even with social distancing in place, they’re still able to allow 250 cars on the property. He said he shows a variety of movies and is open Thursday through Sunday for showings.

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