Drive-in movies to make a comeback in NJ in pandemic pop-up
What's old is new again — with upgraded technology — in the form of drive-in movies for New Jersey.
A pop up model that allows for a "socially distant" way of enjoying a film is grabbing the attention of local governing bodies and recreation departments around the state, according to PJ Windle, owner and CEO of Back to the Movies Drive Ins.
While his latest venture is just starting, Windle has been in the entertainment industry for 21 years, largely as a live events DJ — which is among the many fields derailed by the COVID-19 public health crisis.
Windle said he realized it was a "perfect time" to bring back the drive in movie, with plans built around a movable 32-foot screen.
Windle said he is working with a couple of other companies that own equipment, including "incredible projectors" to form a network that can send multiple screens out at one time and support statewide operation, "instead of just me, trying to run around by the seat of my pants."
Things have been falling into place over the past few weeks, from approaches to working out movie licensing, to at least three ways of transmitting audio for the films: using external speakers, FM transmitter and bluetooth capabilities, Windle said.
One constant has been support from his hometown of Jackson, according to Windle, as Mayor Mike Reina has been onboard since the "first moment."
Windle said he already has spoken to representatives from 15 to 20 municipalities, with a core group of about 5 communities that he expects to be able to announce dates and times for pop up drive in movies within the next week or so.
The drive-in setups will be different from one place to another, Windle said, starting with "lots of township public parks," but also coordinating with some schools, with large enough parking lots to accommodate social distancing regulations.
He said he also has been in contact with restaurants with large enough parking lots, which he hopes will allow for such a restaurant to offer food for movie goers, using a car-hop or drive in model.
Windle said towns will pay the rental fees for equipment and moviegoers will pay admission per carload, which he is hoping to keep to $20 to $25 per vehicle, to allow for an inexpensive family outing.
According to the Back to the Movies Drive Ins website, there will always be a police presence as well as an ambulance for all township run events. Windle said anyone hoping for such a pop up drive in movie in their own community can make the initial introduction and then the company will "take it from there."
New Jersey’s last permanent drive-in, the Delsea Drive-In in Vineland, has been among businesses closed during the pandemic as it awaits word that it can reopen for the season. It was built in 1949, closed in 1987 and then reopened for seasonal business in 2004.
An April 4 post on the Delsea Drive-In Facebook page said it cannot open until the "governor allows businesses like ours to start reopening. We do hope you are all well and like you, we are hoping for a speedy turn around. Hang in there!"