Marcus Pickerington Cinema renews drive-in experience

STEPHEN BORGNA
sborgna@thisweeknews.com
Marcus Pickerington Cinema is offering "drive-in" movies on a 42-foot screen in the parking lot of the theater at 1776 Hill Road North. A double feature that included "Raiders of the Lost Ark" was screened June 24.

It is classic Americana, except it is taking place in the parking lot of an indoor cinema complex with modern vehicles -- and there is a sushi restaurant and a frozen yogurt shop within walking distance.

Several cars took their spots in the parking lot of the Marcus Pickerington Cinema for a drive-in movie the evening of June 25.

It was a double feature of "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" and "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" projected onto a 42-foot screen on the side of the building at 1776 Hill Road N.

The theater has been holding drive-in movie nights since June 12. The indoor theaters remain closed for the time being.

Gov. Mike DeWine initially announced multiple types of businesses that feature large gatherings of people, including movie theaters, would close March 16 because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Marcus Pickerington general manager Carolyn Lewandowski estimated the drive-in movies draw about 40 to 50 people per night on weekends. There were only a small number of guests at Marcus Theatres on June 25, a Thursday, but weekdays normally have been a little slow, she said. Weekends tend to fill up.

"It's definitely been popular," Lewandowski said. "We're kind of slow to start, but we want to give people an alternative until we get the inside open and have some families out to enjoy a movie."

Tickets for the drive-in shows, available online only, are $25 for a car on weekends and $20 during the week. Tickets may be purchased at marcustheatres.com/theatre-locations/pickerington-cinema-pickerington.

Viewers are to remain in their vehicles during the film and stream the film's audio through an FM radio channel. Concessions may be ordered on an app and picked up at the front of the theater.

Guests tend to vary, but families have been the most frequent, Lewandowski said.

Angie Kemp and her children, Brianna and Braylin, attended the "Indiana Jones" double feature June 25. The two girls said they hadn't seen an "Indiana Jones" movie before and the concept of a drive-in theater show was new to them.

Regardless, the girls said prior to viewing, they were looking forward to it.

"The girls just wanted to do something," Angie Kemp said. "So we're out here watching a movie."

The family set up camp in the parking lot, with the rear hatch open on their sport-utility vehicle for viewing and a table set up for playing board games while they waited for the show to start at 9:15 p.m.

Amanda Tuttle and her children, Veronica Tuttle and Oliver Bernstein, also attended the double feature. They caught a movie at the drive-in the previous week and enjoyed it, so they came back.

"We came here last week to see "Twister," but we thought it was so fun, we immediately bought tickets for today," Amanda Tuttle said. "We enjoyed seeing an old movie on the big screen."

"Everything about it is great. I'm really impressed (the theater) had the entrepreneurial forethought to think, 'If they can't go inside the theater, let's do something where they can still come.' "

DeWine gave the all-clear for movie theaters and other venues that feature large congregations of people, such as country clubs and art galleries, to open June 10 with precautions. Yet, Lewandow-ski said, the theater plans to hold the drive-in movie events indefinitely.

The theater mostly has shown classics. "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" and "Jurassic Park" were June 26 and 28. The films will be shown again Thursday, July 2.

A double feature of 2016's "The Jungle Book" and "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" will be July 3, 4, 5 and 9.

Lewandowski said the theater plans to show newer Hollywood hits outside, such as the live-action remake of "Mulan" and Christopher Nolan's "Tenet," when the summer movie docket is in full swing. She said it is anticipated those shows will increase attendance.

"That's what we're hoping," Lewandowski said, "but we kind of wanted to get something going for the community and welcome them back to the movies until they can join us inside."

sborgna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSteve