Luther Burbank Center launches ‘Carpool Cinemas’ drive-in film series
For most modern moviegoers, the drive-in movie theater is nothing more than nostalgic folklore. For older fans, it’s a fond memory. But during the coronavirus pandemic and state-mandated sheltering in place, the idea of watching movies on an outdoor screen from a parked car is making a comeback.
Santa Rosa’s Luther Burbank Center for the Arts will kick off a series of outdoor screenings June 20 for carloads of film fans at its south parking lot, starting with a classic summer blockbuster, the 1993 film “Jurassic Park.” That will be followed June 24 by “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
“We are thrilled to be partnering with Santa Rosa Cinemas for our Carpool Cinemas movie series,” said Anita Wiglesworth, the center’s director of programs and patron services.
For Dan Tocchini, 86, longtime president of Santa Rosa Cinemas, lining up films for the Burbank Center series brought him back to his roots as a movie venue owner. During the 1960s, he experimented with drive-ins like the Humboldt drive-in in Eureka and relocated a Cloverdale drive-in to Petaluma, where it became Parkway Auto Movies.
He also has a longstanding relationship with Burbank Center, sponsoring promotional announcements at his movie theaters for the center’s programs over the past two decades. With his indoor theaters closed until at least late June by state and county shelter-in-place orders, he likes the idea of partnering with the center on a summerlong series of drive-in movies, showing at dusk on Wednesday and Saturday nights.
“We’re going to get the films for them,” he said. “They’ll be classics and good family fare.”
The admission price will be $30 per car, and patrons will be required to stay in their cars except to use restrooms, available in the center’s main building. Social distancing will be practiced. Viewers will tune into an FM channel for sound. Initially, 200 cars will be allowed, and that can be expanded to 300 if the program proves popular. For information and tickets, go to lutherburbankcenter.org
“Partnering with one of the largest local movie house companies is a win-win,” Wiglesworth said. “We talked about doing this in the past, but it’s never been a priority until now. We’re exploring ways of bringing people together safely.”
Santa Rosa Cinemas owns 10 theaters in California - five of them in Sonoma County, including Raven Film Center in Healdsburg as well as Roxy Stadium 14, Airport Stadium 12, 3rd Street Cinemas and Summerfield Cinemas in Santa Rosa.
The Alexander Valley Film Society launched its own summer drive-in movie series at the Cloverdale Citrus Fairgrounds earlier this month, opening with “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Additional drive-in nights are planned July 24 and Sept. 12, with the titles to be announced later. Admission costs $30 per car. Go online to avfilmsociety.org to buy tickets and find a schedule and more information.
“We have been conducting pop-up drive-in movie events since the summer of 2015,” said Kathryn Hecht, founder and executive director of Alexander Valley Film Society.
In collaboration with the film society, Corazon Healdsburg hosted two drive-in movies in Spanish last summer at the Healdsburg Community Center, where the organization showed “Selena” and “Coco.” The program continues this summer with free Spanish-language drive-in showings of “Black Panther” on July 11 and “La Bamba” on Aug. 8.
You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.