The Marketplace Drive-In Cinema had a successful opening weekend last Friday and Saturday, according to owner Daniel Kleeberg, and it is getting ready for its second weekend of showing movies.
“I thought it went great,” Kleeberg said. “I thought everybody was happy. Everybody got along. It went smoothly.”
The weather was pleasant on both June 19, when the drive-in screened “Smokey and the Bandit,” and June 20, when it showed “The Muppet Movie.”
The available spaces on both nights sold out, Kleeberg said, with about 120 vehicles in the parking lot each night. This weekend, the drive-in may expand to 150 to 160 spaces. Depending on the status of North Carolina’s social-distancing requirements, it may eventually grow to more than 200 spaces, but for now Kleeberg said he is focused on working out the kinks and making sure things run smoothly.
“We didn’t want to bite off more than we could chew,” he said. “We hope to be up to full speed by the July 4th weekend. It’s better to keep a few people happy.”
One problem that popped up a few times, he said, happened when some patrons bought spaces for cars that were less tall than the ones they came in. Since the line of sight for cars behind them depended on the height of the cars, the parking lot was laid out with shorter vehicles toward the front rows, and bringing in a taller vehicle than permitted in that space partially blocked the view of patrons behind them. A few moviegoers were asked to move to a more height-appropriate part of the parking lot.
“Everybody was very nice about it,” Kleeberg said. Going forward, he said, more care will be taken in measuring the height of vehicles as they enter and having them use a different spot, if need be.
There were also a few cases last weekend where drivers didn’t now how to turn off the automatic daytime running lights on their cars, which would be distracting for other viewers. That was easily solved by using black trash bags and Scotch tape to cover the lights, Kleeberg said.
He said he was also pleased with how concession sales went, with patrons social distancing in the lobby of the movie theater to buy popcorn, candy and bottled drinks.
There were several vendors in the parking lot, selling cream puffs, cake pops and other desserts, as well as a food truck selling muscadine and Cheerwine slush drinks. Food trucks and vendors will vary from week to week, Kleeberg said.
Last night, the theater showed the Disney movie “Zootopia.” Tonight, in conjunction with Ticketmaster, it will have two screenings of a Garth Brooks concert film, one at 9 p.m. and the other just before midnight, which will be the first time the new theater has to coordinate multiple showtimes. On Sunday, the theater will carry the recent film “The Greatest Showman.”
Tickets for tonight’s Garth Brooks event, which are being sold through Ticketmaster, are $100 for each carload of up to six people. Since the Brooks concert is first-come, first-served, the gates will open at 5 p.m. for the sold-out 9 p.m. showing. At last word, tickets might still be available for the second showing, which will start at 11:59 p.m.
Tickets for most other screenings are currently $20 a carload, though it may be a few dollars more for two double-feature screenings planned in July. When new releases become available later this summer, ticket prices will change to a per-person price rather than a carload price, but that amount has not been set, Kleeberg said. Also, several screenings of the new horror movie “Relic,” on July 6-8, will be $10 a carload. Gates will open at 7 p.m. for most movies, with an 8:30 p.m. cutoff for arrivals. Films will start shortly after dusk when it is dark enough for the image to be seen clearly.
Tickets for all currently scheduled movies are on sale at https://mpcws drivein.simpletix.com, and more information can be found at the theater’s Facebook page. Upcoming movies include the original “Ghostbusters,” “E.T. The Extraterrestrial,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Jurassic Park,” the 1969 “True Grit,” “Jaws,” “Marvel’s Black Panther,” “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Inside Out.”