The pre-digital age was a simpler time for movie viewing. Before video on demand and streaming became the new normal, going to the movies was an event that catered to some of our most memorable moments, from first dates to special family outings. A trip to the cinema fulfilled both cultural needs for artistic consumption and created a community of people contained in a theater, all sharing the same experience.
When COVID-19 hit, streaming the newest films no longer felt like a convenience but instead our only mode of digesting content. It grew in many of us a desire to experience those precious moments of sharing a laugh with a packed theater, or shedding a tear on the shoulder of the one you love. COVID-19 knocked the movie industry on its back and forced it to make a choice—adapt or die. Blending nostalgia as a means of comfort and revenue as a means of survival—while still practicing necessary social distancing procedures—proved not to be as difficult as one would imagine. The answer lies underneath years of change, somehow forgotten yet cherished for being one of the last remaining romanticized viewing experiences: the drive-in movie theater.
Greatest Comeback of 2020: Drive-In Movies
Pop-up drive-ins have started appearing all over the nation and as usual, Philadelphia is on the cutting edge. Nestled nicely in the far corners of the Navy Yard now lives a fully functioning drive-in movie theater. The gracious hosts at Philadelphia Film Society have adapted to the new demands of movie theaters while still honoring their core values of community, diversity, and entertainment.
Known for the Philadelphia Film Festival and the Roxy Theater, The Philadelphia Film Society has an astute knowledge of what moviegoers are looking for. They’ve hand selected their lineup to include films that can please all genres of cinephiles; from family favorites like “Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse” to art house classics like “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” PFS itself is excited to “welcome back Philadelphia’s extensive community of film lovers for a socially distanced viewing experience of a diverse and exciting curated slate of films, all from the safety of their own cars.”
Now Showing at the Drive-In
PFS, like most creative entities, was hit hard by the forced closures in March. Rather than admit defeat, they rebounded beautifully by expanding to virtual theaters, quizzo nights, and now have branched out to include the drive-in that is anticipated to be a mainstay in the Navy Yard until November. They’ve even started to screen first-run films, with their first being the very drive-in appropriate “Bill & Ted Face The Music,” showing through the weekend.
PFS is also partnering up with ReelBlack in offering free community screenings of innovative films by Black female filmmakers as part of the ongoing Force in Focus: The Black Experience on Film Series. Past showings include “The Watermelon Woman” and “Love & Basketball”, with “Cadillac Records” lined up as the next free community screening.
My quarantine bubble companion and I chose to catch a screening of “Get Out,” supplied with an exorbitant amount of snacks. This was my first time seeing the film on a big screen in a crowd of people. The feeling of community that had too long gone neglected re-entered me with each laugh, cheer and gasp from the crowd. The uproarious camaraderie made the experience all the more enjoyable, and while the movie was the main event, I couldn’t help but think how the real gift here was the ability to safely be around other people. From six feet apart, a stranger and I shared a remark on the film, and I found myself assured that the film community will be able to weather this storm. After all, there is no more creative and durable force than that of the Philadelphia film community.
Grab Your Tickets!
Explore the movies that are Now Showing this week at the Drive-In at the Navy Yard, and stay tuned for what’s to come over the next few months!
Catch a movie digitally at the PFS Virtual Theater.
Stay tuned for the ever-loved Philadelphia Film Festival. The timeless local tradition will live on in 2020 with viewers being able to catch screenings from a wide array of talented filmmakers from October 22nd to November 1st.