How to setup a drive-in cinema and movie theatres
During the current corona epidemic drive-in cinemas are experiencing a renaissance. It´s a great service to your community especially to the youth to have at least something to do legally outside your own house, and just cruising around your neighborhood or city is during the lockdown not a save nor a behavior that sould be encouraged. In our view drive-in cinemas are currently one of the few save and responsible ways of entertainment outside your own house. We at rebeam are fascinated from the idea of having more (pop-up / temporary) drive-in theaters again, and we are eager to support any positive service to our and your community.
Here we want to share what we know about setting up a drive-in cinema as well as offering our projectors and related technology for FREE during this lockdown period to encourage more creative and save entertainment solutions for the community we are part of and live in.
As in my honest personal opinion now it´s not the time to make money, now it´s the time to collaborate, share and give back to the community. We at rebeam are in the process of setting up or rather facilitating a drive-in cinema here in Berlin. We talked with parking lot and department store owners, cinema owners and other local event companies to team up and make this happen for our community.
Here is what you need to have or at least consider for a drive-in cinema in your region.
(Please note this guide might not be complete and might not reflect your local legal situation and rules. Please act accordingly. And we can´t take any responsibility if you get in trouble.)
Location: an empty parking lot, maybe in front of the closed department stores or malls. Think about the minimum distance between cars and mark the parking spots or have someone show people where and how to park. If you happen to find a parking lot with a building (ideally white and no windows) you might already have the screen for your projection too.
Movies: If you show classics (e.g. The Big Lebowski) and Arthouse movies you can simply talk to the license owners and apply for a public screening license, maybe even online. If you fancy the current Hollywood blockbusters, things are a bit more complicated license wise and for technological requirements, here we would suggest to team up with a local cinema, they are closed anyways and likely very happy to help and get back up running. Expect roughly 40% from the ticket price to be paid to the studios for current movies.
Ticketing: Most important, do it corona-save, so contactless. Only with presale online and scanning the ticket through the car windows. If you are doing it independent use services like Eventbrite.com (they will also do some listing/promotion) if you team up with a local cinema they have the ticketing setup already for you. Price wise you can charge per head or per car.
Projector, Screen, Audio, FM-Transmitter, Generator can fit in one commercial van and make a secure and flexible projection car/truck, an LED-Wall is a great alternative to the projector&screen solution, ask around in your community it will be sitting in a warehouse anyways now….
Projector: if you screen classics and arthouse any decent large-venue projector will do. Expect around 10.000Lumens for up to 10m screen, 20.000Lumens for up to 15m screen and 30.000+Lumens for up to 20m screen. The better you can control the environmental light the bigger the screen can be. If you screen current blockbusters you will need a DCI-Projector with a Server, so again team up with a cinema they have it ready and running and you can likely just take it from the projection room and set it up at the drive-in, else we also have some in stock and are happy to supply it for you and your community.
Screen: Ideally you have a location with building that you can project on. If you want to use a screen please think also of the setup, possible wind load and how to secure it properly to the ground. Up to 10m you can find fast-fold screen at one of your local event companies, the “proper” screen might be an Airscreen, they built them up to at least 20m. These are inflatable screen that are pretty easy and quick to setup and the screen of choice for outdoor cinema and drive-ins. I would also ask around who does own one in country or region because openair cinemas are explicitly forbidden in the current lockdown so you might be able to use it for free as well… They guys from Airscreen will happily tell you who owns one close to you. We sell them new and used if you feel like getting your own permanently, unfortunately we only have a 5m one ourselves that you can use for free but it´s very small for a drive-in…
LED-Wall: If you own or a have access to a outdoor LED-Wall in your network of colleagues that will give you a lot more flexibility screening time wise (also in the afternoon for family and kis) or if you can´t control the ambient light on the location. Of course, there are other challenges like the power-consumption that you need to consider when running an LED-Wall. And very likely you can´t screen the current blockbuster movies on an LED-Screen as movie companies won´t allow it.
Audio: The audio is usually transmitted/broadcasted via FM to the car stereo of the audience. You can find simple FM-Transmitters with 1-5Watt online that will do the job easily. You just choose a free FM-Frequency and broadcast there. Likely you will need to apply for a license with the authorities to use that frequency even if you only have a simple transmitter. If you screen current movies you will need a sound processor to convert the audio signal from the DCI/DCP server down to an analog stereo signal before feeding it into the FM-Transmitter.
If you want to provide snacks, do it contactless. Have people order&buy them online and have them delivered next to their closed car window so they can pick it up once you´re gone.
Think about teaming up with a local food truck or have it as part of the ticketing…. A good way of identification is the numberplate of the car or you give numbers to the parking spots of the cars. Likely this is might be the part where you can/could make a few bucks…
Please comment if you have additions and please let us know if we can support you and your local drive-in cinema. Stay healthy and be safe.
Jonas from rebeam