With movie theaters closed half of the summer and most concert venues canceled during the Covid-19 pandemic, trying to find innovative ways to provide entertainment to crowds has been an extraordinary challenge for Midcoast’s arts and theatre venues. As a result, some have taken a page from history and revived the old-fashioned Drive-In. Here’s a look at three venues that are making it work.
The Shotwell Drive-In
CIFF films, Rockport
The Shotwell Drive-In is the Camden International Film Festival’s latest brainstormed solution as a way to offer the Midcoast community a place to come together and enjoy films during COVID-19 and beyond. “The Shotwell Drive-in” is named in honor of Bob Shotwell, a longtime supporter of CIFF and member of the Points North Institute’s Board of Directors. In August, the outdoor theater will be screening the best in new and classic documentaries, with a few special community films mixed in. On Sunday, August 2, CIFF is screening “John Lewis: Good Trouble,” a film that explores Lewis’s 60-plus years of social activism and legislative action on civil rights, voting rights, gun control, health care reform, and immigration.
The Shotwell Drive-In will be used as the primary venue for 2020 CIFF events, October 1-12. Space is extremely limited and due to COVID-19 safety precautions, they will be limiting attendance. All screenings are pre-registration only, with no tickets sold at the door. Tickets are $20 per car. The doors will open at 7:30 p.m. and no cars will be admitted after 8:15 p.m. The film will start at 8:30 p.m. Concessions and restrooms will be available on site. For more information on upcoming films visit: their website and follow CIFF on Facebook.
Strand Theatre Drive-In
Owls Head Transportation Museum, Owls Head
The Strand Theatre had to completely re-think how to screen films during COVID-19 when movie theaters were banned from re-opening until July 1, per the Mills Administration’s Stage 3 Restarting Maine’s Economy Plan. First, they had to find a place to host a large-enough parking lot complete with a giant screen. Collaborating with the Owls Head Transportation Museum, they began their screenings Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights throughout July at the museum campus. Coming up Thursdays in August, Jurassic Park (August 8) and Get Out (August 13) will be on the docket.
Tickets are $20 per car, and will be available starting at 2 p.m. each day for that evening’s show. Availability is limited, so movie-goers are encouraged to buy their tickets early to guarantee their spot. Showtime will be at 8:30 p.m. each night, with gates opening at 7:30 p.m. Though a concession stand will not be available, a complimentary bag of popcorn will go to each car, and attendees are welcome to bring their own snacks. Film audio will be broadcast over FM radio on 87.9 FM; movie-goers can listen with their car radios or with a portable radio.
Tickets can be purchased on the Strand Theatre website, or by calling 594-0070 between 2-4 p.m. For more information about each screening visit their website.
Outdoor Film & Music Festival
The Pour Farm, Union
Additionally, socially distant outdoor movie events have become a popular way to gather. Union’s only nano-brewery, The Pour Farm, is showing an outdoor film every Friday and Saturday evening in September on their wooded property. Interestingly, most of the films chosen are from the silent era of the 1920s. That’s because owner Bill Stinson had the idea to pair each movie with a live band who will be playing throughout.
“One day we were sitting on the deck and looking out in the woods and said ‘This would be a great place to screen a movie,’ so we’re going to put up a big 13-foot-screen and hang it from the trees,” he said. “It’s more than just a film festival though; I’ve got a few friends who are composers and musicians and they want to write original scores to these old movies and perform live during the screenings.”
Some of the vintage movies are family-friendly such as The Red Balloon (1956) and Balloonatic (1923) along with The Lost World (1925), but Stinson is throwing some horror genres in there —Nosferatu (1922) and Night of The Living Dead (1968), along with Reefer Madness (1936), so you might want to leave the kiddies at home for those ones.
For more information on the film details visit their website.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org