Malco’s Summer Quartet Drive-In will reopen Friday, two months after Memphis-area movie screens were shut down in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
One of about 330 drive-in theaters still in operation in the U.S., the Summer Quartet will feature a family-friendly double feature of “Trolls: World Tour” (in its Memphis big-screen premiere) and the recent “Dolittle” with Robert Downey Jr. on two of its screens, while an Addams Family-friendly R-rated horror double bill of the new version of “The Invisible Man” and “The Hunt” occupies its other two screens.
Tickets must be purchased online in advance, at a rate of $20 per carload — a bargain price, except for anyone intending to go to the drive-in alone. Only 470 cars will be allowed into the drive-in, or half the number that could fit into its allotted spaces, pre-coronavirus.
In addition, numerous safety measures will be in place, as directed by Mayor Jim Strickland’s office and the Shelby County Health Department. Employees will be gloved and masked; bathroom occupancy will be monitored, to ensure social distancing; and the concession stand will have separate ordering and pick-up locations. Except for popcorn and soft drinks, all food will be served in sealed packaging, and refills for popcorn and sodas will not be available.
“Malco is very excited to open the drive-in and welcome our customers back”, said David Tashie, the company’s president and chief operating officer. ”We cannot wait for everyone to enjoy a night out watching movies on the big screen again.”
The reopening of the Summer Quartet puts Memphis in alignment with a nationwide trend in which drive-ins have been allowed to operate while indoor theaters have remained closed. Initially, Malco closed the drive-in March 17, along with its other theaters, to be in compliance with city guidelines, in part because the drive-in — despite the fact that its patrons are separated by cars — typically was a “social” place, with fans often congregating outside the concession stand, or creating picnic-like environments with lawn chairs.
Such socializing is one reason the drive-in won’t be hosting any special events for at least a month. The May edition of cult-and-classic cinema series “Time Warp Drive-In” had been schedule for this weekend, but that program (which would have featured “E.T.,” “The Goonies” and “Explorers”) will not take place.
Founded in 1915, Memphis-based Malco Theatres operates 37 cinemas in six states. Malco officials on Wednesday said no dates have been set yet for the reopening of the company’s indoor theaters.