Live experiences are returning—along with audiences who can spectate from the safety and comfort of their cars.

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Club Index Autodisco
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The drive-in experience is getting not only a revival but a modern-day makeover, extending into an eclectic mix of live events from concerts to art shows.

While many people have turned to the virtual realm for social events, others are craving options beyond the home as lockdown restrictions slowly ease around the world. In New York, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo authorized openings of “low-risk” activities in parts of the state from May 18, including drive-in theaters. “Talk about going back to the future,” Cuomo said in his speech, “back to drive-in movie theaters.”

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Carflix Cinema

Echoing Cuomo’s words, the retro drive-in movie theater is indeed making a comeback. New York’s Warwick Drive-In turned its projector back on for audiences this month, as have California outdoor theaters including Van Buren and Mission Tiki Drive-In Theatre. The drive-in set-up is also being adopted as pop-ups around America. Atlanta’s Plaza Theatre has closed its indoor cinema but opens an outdoor drive-in version in May and Bel Aire Diner in Queens, New York has transformed its parking lot into a drive-in movie theater.

Kerby Jean-Raymond, designer and founder of fashion label Pyer Moss, is proposing a drive-in show during New York fashion week in September. Rather than a catwalk set-up, the event will instead premiere his feature film “American, Also,” documenting behind-the-scenes of the independent fashion brand.

Brands are also getting in on the drive-in game. Tribeca Enterprises, Imax and AT&T are joining forces to bring Tribeca Drive-In to cities across the US from June 25. “At a time when people are eager to connect and convene again after months-long social distancing, we’re taking the spirit of Tribeca around the country by creating a safe environment where audiences can come together and enjoy the sense of connection found by going to the movies,” says Jane Rosenthal, Tribeca Enterprises and Tribeca Film Festival co-founder and CEO in a statement.

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Club Index Autodisco

It’s not just the US—the popularity of drive-ins is seeing a resurgence around the world. In Germany, France and Lithuania, cinema goers are making the journey to drive-in movie theaters. Dubai’s Reel Cinemas took to social media on 15 May to announce “The Reel Drive-In Cinema” coming soon. Drive-In Movie Club in Melbourne Australia will open in August. And Nigerian filmmaker Charles Okpaleke introduced drive-in cinemas in Abuja and Lagos in May.

The car has become a sheltered safe haven allowing people movement and accessibility to participate in social activities at a time when social distancing etiquette still applies. Event planners are looking at ways to revamp and expand the drive-in experience for modern-day audiences by being more than a cinema destination—one that can serve all forms of live performances.

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Club Index Autodisco
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In Germany, Club Index hosted Autodisco, a drive-in rave for 250 cars from April 30 to May 2. Strict measures applied including no alcohol and each car is limited to two people, but the party did involve a lot of horns honking to the beat in lieu of the usual enthusiastic screams from the crowd. DJ Devin Wild posted a clip on his Instagram showing the euphoric drive-in club atmosphere at Autodisco.

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Club Index Autodisco

In Aarhus, Denmark, an outdoor music venue has transformed into a drive-in concert, housing up to 500 cars. Performances kicked-off on April 24, broadcasting the music to car radios who are permitted to only roll down one window on the left side of the vehicle to listen live.

Spain’s Costa Blanca plans to open Cinemacar, a cinema and music venue, on June 11, with the capacity to accommodate over 400 cars. “Cinemacar updates the concept of drive-in we all know, a new offer of entertainment and leisure that takes into account the musical, cinematographic and restoration culture, with the highest standards of design, quality and comfort,” says Nando Coderch, CEO and founder of Cinemacar.

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Carflix Cinema

New York’s Yankee Stadium has plans to transform into a drive-in festival this summer, according to Time Out. Events will include drive-in movie, concerts and car-side dinner services. As for those craving art, Toronto will be hosting Gogh by Car, a 35-minute drive-in art installation showcasing Vincent Van Gogh’s work with the help of light, sound and projectors inside a 4,000 square-foot warehouse.

Even drive-in church services across the US and Germany are on the rise. As lockdown relaxes but rules around social distancing remain, event planners are satiating the outdoor experience deprived audience with drive-in alternatives.

“There’s no way that this [pandemic] is the end of [physical gatherings],” Justin Bolognino, founder and CEO of Meta, tells Wunderman Thompson Intelligence. “It’s going to be a rocky road to get there, but we’re going to get back to that. We have to.” The drive-in may be part of the road we take to get there.

Main image of Immersive Van Gogh’s Gogh by Car. Photo by Luca Migliore