May 18, 2020 at 11:12 AM EDT – Updated May 18 at 11:12 AM
STEPHENS CITY, Va. (CNN) – Even with the rain coming down, business has been up recently at the Family Drive-In Theatre.
“People are seeing it as a safe environment, a safe way to come out to see the movie,” said manager James Kopp.
With traditional cinemas and Hollywood itself reeling from lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic, drive-ins appear to be offering a rare and surging bright spot for the industry, and for fans weary of sheltering at home.
They started back in the early 1900s as an alternative to the stuffy, cramped conditions in some early theaters. They boomed in the 1950s and 1960s then fell into decades of decline.
But now that old idea suddenly seems new – and needed.
And it’s not just for movies. Country music star Keith Urban recently staged a tribute concert to health care workers at a drive-in, suggesting live entertainment may also find a home in the automotive amphitheaters.
At Kopp’s theater, moviegoers recently expressed their support for hospital staffers with a blast of horns. Then the light faded, the projector came alive, and for at least a little while, people sat apart but felt close.
“To me, it’s like, ‘Yes, oh my goodness!’ It’s like we’re back and we’re bringing the community back together – yes!” Kopp said. “The American drive-in theater rides again.”
The Family Drive-In Theatre is still practicing social distancing by telling people to stay apart, limiting the number of people who come in, and asking customers to make advanced reservations, but for a lot of people, it’s a good option for a night out after so many nights in.
Copyright 2020 CNN. All rights reserved.