The drive in is having a moment. Popular in the US, drive in cinemas have remained a determinedly niche attraction in the UK. Until now.
Pandemic Britain provides the perfect opportunity for the drive in. With its emphasis on social distancing and its aversion to indoor entertainment, the drive in appears to be the perfect fit.
Suddenly, the venues are popping up everywhere, with at least four different companies setting up shop in the UK in the next few months. And it’s not just cinema that is benefiting from the trend – London is about to welcome its first drive in Opera.
The product of a collaboration between the English National Opera and Alexandra Palace, ENO Live and Drive will see the duo team up for a series of adapted performances of popular productions.
La Boheme and The Magic Flute are just two of the productions being mentioned, with the ENO keen to test the format before potentially reproducing it elsewhere if the initiative works in North London.
The chief executive of the ENO, Stuart Murphy, speaking to The Guardian, described the initiative as: “a bit of an experiment and if it works it might be a way of bringing the artform to people in a totally different and authentic way”.
“I miss seeing my brother and sister, seeing my mates close up, and I miss seeing something live. It is human nature to yearn for that. Hopefully, we can offer that universal, collective experience in a safe environment.”
Each event will have space for up to 300 vehicles, with the the organisers saying that motorcyclists and cyclists will also be welcome.
“Instead of clapping or shouting ‘bravo’, it might be that people flash their lights or honk their horn. As long as it’s authentic, we’re not going to force it,” Murphy said.
Like most cultural institutions in the UK, the ENO has been badly hit by the recent lockdown. The institution remains closed and there is uncertainty about when it might be allowed to reopen.
The orgabisation have said that they are still hoping to open Hairspray at the London Coliseum in September 2020, but the institution’s finances are likely to be severely affected by the pandemic and its devastating effect on UK businesses. In this climate, ENO Live & Drive may provide a much needed new stream of revenue during the pandemic.
Other countries ae flirting with drive in venues too. Germany’s two year round drive in theatres have been inundated with movie goers since the pandemic begun and other vendors are springing up around the country.
In the US too, there are signs that drive ins could capitalise on the closure of other forms of entertainment, with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo saying that he saw no risk from allowing the regions drive in theatres to reopen.
More information about ENO Drive & Live can be found here.
For information on other socially distanced activities in London, please click here.