Back to the future with the rebirth of drive-in cinema

The shortage of films released during the COVID-19 crisis has led Sunset Cinemas to program classics such as The Lion King and Mrs. Doubtfire alongside new products Principle and An American pickle.

“We’re definitely looking to program more classic titles than we usually would,” said Mr. Garth. “There are a lot of timeless classics that audiences will see over and over again.”

Lisa and Michael Montesin from Killarney Heights with their children (left to right) Noah, Zoe and Bailey at Ku-ring-gai Drive In Cinema.Credit:Wolter peeters

Lisa Montesin, who attended the Ku-ring-gai drive’s opening night with her family on Thursday, said the outdoor event felt “definitely” safer during the COVID-19 era.

“You are in your own car and can bring your own food,” she says. “It is safer because you can distance yourself from others.”

Sydney’s iconic OpenAir cinema, with its screen installed in the harbor, aims to operate during the summer with changes such as pre-assigned seats, guest check-in, social distancing and ‘carefully managed entrances and exits. “.

“We recognize that the staging of events will depend on the spread of the pandemic remaining in control, and at this point all we can do is plan appropriately and creatively,” said Rob Bryant, chief executive. of Cinerent, which operates OpenAir Cinema in the Royal Botanic Gardens.

He said the capacity of the 2,000-seat grandstand will be “significantly reduced”, as will the number of customers allowed in the event’s restaurants.

Outdoor cinemas like Ku-ring-gai Drive In Cinema are expected to thrive during the summer months.

Outdoor cinemas like Ku-ring-gai Drive In Cinema are expected to thrive during the summer months.Credit:Wolter peeters

“We’ll kind of compensate for that reduction by increasing the length of the season and making the event a more comfortable experience,” said Bryant. “Customers may well find outdoor events safer and more inviting this summer.”


The Moonlight Cinema is expected to release its outdoor screening schedule at Centennial Park this week.

Under NSW Public Health Orders, cinemas and theaters are required to have a COVID-19 security plan, but as of October 1, these venues are allowed to sell tickets for 50% of their capacity, up to 1000 people.

Mr Garth said Sunset Cinema is also looking to tailor its outdoor screenings by reducing the number of guests and marking spaces where members of the audience can be seated while maintaining social distancing.

“We know the public will want a safe and accessible outdoor summer experience,” he said.

Andrew Taylor is a senior reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald.

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