In times of duress, nostalgia tends to be a balm, and that doesn’t stop at victory gardens and sourdough. The drive-in movie theater — old tech that happens to fit our newly socially-distanced lifestyles particularly well — is on an uptick nationwide. We wrote yesterday about upcoming drive-in movie screenings from the Arkansas Cinema Society and the Hot Springs Documentary Festival, and couldn’t help but notice our algorithms pointed us swiftly toward some choice looking concert films being screened at 7318 Windsong Drive, where Daniel Campbell’s “Antiquities” goes up Saturday evening.
James Snyder, the event promoter behind Metroplex Live and Juanita’s Entertainment, has teamed up with Rwake vocalist/concert promoter Chris Terry (CT) to screen films at the NLR spot: horror anthology “10-31”; “Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii”; a live Dueling Pianos show with Charlie Askew and Justin Elkins; “Pallbearer: Live in NYC,” with an opening set from Sumokem. Today, a live show from Adam Faucett was added to the lineup.
The big screen is indeed a big one; it’s 40 feet wide and 22 feet tall, and sits on the grounds of what was once called the Windsong Performing Arts Center, a site that’s been used most recently as a wedding/event venue. The Pink Floyd and Pallbearer concert films, as well as “10-31,” will be projected onto the screen, while Faucett and the dueling pianists will perform live in front of the screen, with multi-camera video of the performance projected on the screen behind. Movie audio is broadcast on a low-wattage radio signal, at 87.9 FM. “The sound is incredible,” Terry said. “It comes through the transmitter just like any other drive-in.”
Snyder hopes to incorporate some family programming for the drive-in soon. “Right now, you could look at our programming and say, ‘This is a lot of indie stuff,’ ” Snyder said, “and that’s always gonna be hopefully part of this. But we’re also hoping that we’ll do some cool throwback movies, a showing of ‘Friday,’ or ‘The Big Lebowski.’ Movies that people maybe never got a chance to see on a big screen.”
“It’ll be fun,” Snyder said. “It just feels like a cool throwback. I took my kids out there, not knowing how they would react, because they’d never been to [a drive-in], and with the way they are with screens, I didn’t expect them to be all that impressed. And they were super excited about it.”
For now, the NLR Drive-In is limiting the number of cars to 40. Admission is donation-based, and a $20 donation will secure you a VIP spot. Bathrooms are used by one person at a time, and a masked bathroom attendant disinfects after use (although, with short movie runtimes, you could potentially avoid it altogether). Concessions can be delivered to your car window. “We talked a lot about the safety of it,” Terry said. “There were a lot of questions to kick back and forth before we could even think about doing this.” Snyder stressed the socially distanced logistics, and the contact-free nature of the experience. “Other than us stopping you at the gate to find out if you’re one of the people who have a reserved space,” Snyder said, “and we’re going to keep our distance as we do that.”
“The early response, for sure, has been overwhelmingly positive. Hopefully, it’s a regular thing,” Snyder said, “and we can always fill it up.”
“This is all an experiment,” Snyder said. “The plan is for this to be free, in terms of, if you want to reserve a spot and pay for one, we’re gonna save you a spot. But outside of that, just come out and watch. One of the reasons we’re doing it this way is because we know a lot of people are out of work. If you can throw in a donation at the front, then do. But if you can’t, we know everybody needs to get out of the house. If we reserve 20 [of 40] spots, the first 20 cars coming in are getting a spot, whether they donate or not.”
Juanita's Entertainment LLC
A few ground rules from the North Little Rock Drive-In Facebook group, where the films are announced:
1) Unless otherwise stated, admission is free — but we will always accept donations at the front gate. A parking space can be reserved in advance for a $20 donation at most shows.
2) The front gate location will also have the concessions menu and phone number to text your order. Concessions will be delivered to your window by a masked server.
3) The bathrooms inside the building will be available. Please follow the instructions of the masked bathroom attendant, who will disinfect the stall and sink after each use. Taped squares on the hallway floor will identify acceptable social distancing.
3a) Please wear a mask when exiting your vehicle. If everyone does it, we’ll all feel a lot safer. Thank you in advance for your cooperation!
4) UPDATED 5/11/20: The configuration we have settled upon WILL allow you to leave during the movie, however there can be no re-entry. Parking will be in multiple semi-circular rows; and vehicles will exit one row at a time at the conclusion of the movie. Exit lanes will be clearly visible and a parking lot attendant will help coordinate traffic. We’ll be limited to about 40 cars to start and will expand if needed. Tune your radio dial to 87.9 FM for movie audio.
5) You are welcome to suggest movie titles you’d like to see within the group. Most titles are available to be licensed for viewing.
6) Please remember to turn off your headlights during the show.
7) If you have questions not answered here, please ask and we’ll add answers as we go.