Social distancing matters. Here is how to do it and how it can help curb the COVID-19 pandemic. USA TODAY
It’s no secret that COVID-19 has led to struggles for many area businesses.
Between safety regulations, shrinking revenue and the simple fact that many people don’t feel safe spending time in public, many outlets have had to change tactics quickly or simply close.
But for people who find themselves wanting to get out of the house for some fun while still staying socially distanced, an option has emerged — the drive-in theater.
Not one, but two area drive-in theaters will be open as of this weekend — one of them for the first time in seven years.
Kevin Rozeboom took over the Verne Drive-In on March 16, after owner Glenn Burmeister sold it following 20 years of operating the Luverne, Minn., theater.
Kevin’s daughter, Gracie Rozeboom, said “it was a very strange time” to take over the business. In addition to the standard preparations needed to make the transition, they were also operating under the confusion brought on by the pandemic.
As recently as last weekend, it wasn’t clear exactly when they’d be able to reopen — but with regulations now more clear and movie studios providing them with films, they’ll be showing “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” and “Jumanji: The Next Level” starting at 8:45 p.m. on Friday, May 22.
The theater will be open daily after that, with showtimes available on the theater’s Facebook page. The theater’s menu will be available to order online, with masked and gloved employees prepping food to be picked up in the lobby.
The Starlite Drive-In Theatre, meanwhile, has been open in Mitchell since May 8, when they played “Grease,” the first movie at the theater since it closed in 2013.
Jeff Logan, president of Logan Luxury Theatres Corporation, said the theater closed due to declining business, combined with the need to purchase a $70,000 digital projector to keep showing films.
“I really didn’t think we would reopen it ever,” Logan said, although he kept the site intact in case the situation “changed dramatically.”
And earlier this year, it did.
“It really seemed like the right answer to social distancing,” Logan said, adding that “it took a lot of cleaning, a lot of painting and a lot of repair work” to get the theater ready.
Story continues below
Online ordering is being used for snacks and drinks, and the theater is showing only one feature a night to limit the use of the restrooms for added safety.
With the company’s five screens at Luxury 5 Cinemas sitting unused, they had a digital projector ready to use as well, and even operating at half-capacity for safety, the lot can fit 200 cars, Logan said.
Upcoming movies include “Tommy Boy” and “Ghostbusters,” and Logan said that they’ll continue through the season before deciding what happens in the future for the theater.
Digital projectors can now be purchased used, after all, and if the popularity the Starlite is enjoying now continues, who knows?
“This could be a one-year thing,” Logan said, “or it could start a whole new life for the drive-in.”
Read or Share this story: https://www.argusleader.com/story/news/2020/05/20/south-dakota-coronavirus-updates-reopening-drive-in-movie-theaters/5231443002/