NEWBERG, Ore. — The 99W Drive-In Theatre in Newberg is reopening for weekend movie showings, beginning this Friday. The movie lineup for this weekend's showings will be revealed later Monday.
Brian Francis, operator of the drive-in, said he felt Memorial Day weekend was the perfect time to open.
"We hope to show a return to normal at the drive-in, although it's the new normal with strict COVID-19 guidelines," he said. "Don't forget to bring your mask!"
Don't expect to just drive up and get in, though. This is a reservation-only event. To get in, reserve your spot by emailing 99WReservation@gmail.com. You'll need to include the following information in your email:
- Reservation date / movie
- Phone number
- Number of adults/kids in party
- Car color and make
The drive-in will begin accepting email reservations Monday at 8 p.m. Any emails sent before 8 p.m. won't be considered. Only one reservation per weekend is allowed.
The drive-in asks that people attend only with others from their own household. Space will be limited to 142 vehicles to assure proper social distancing.
Notification of reservation approvals will be emailed out at least 24 hours before the show.
This isn't the first drive-in theater in Oregon to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. The M-F Drive-In Theater in Milton-Freewater in Umatilla County reopened in mid-April after getting approval from the health department.
All regular movie theaters in Oregon and Washington are closed indefinitely because of the coronavirus. Theaters have resorted to creative ways to provide movie-watching options for their customers.
The Kiggins Theatre in Vancouver launched a virtual cinema in mid-March to allow customers to rent independent movies in their homes. The Liberty Theater in Camas and Cinema 21 in northwest Portland have also allowed customers to stream independent films from home.
But streaming movies in your home isn't the same as going to a theater to see the latest blockbuster. The drive-in theater, whose peak came in the late 1950s and early 1960s, is both a fun blast from the past and a way to provide the movie-going experience.
Francis, the operator of the Newberg drive-in theater, said he knows there's a demand to return to movie theaters. He told The New York Times late last month that he was receiving as many as three dozen messages from customers asking him to reopen.
"Folks are thinking that the drive-in is the original social distance way to see a movie, and this is some kind of golden opportunity for the vanishing drive-ins to shine," he wrote in an email.
In late March, Francis told The New York Times he was hesitant to reopen until he was confident it was safe to do so. He said he communicated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Oregon Health Authority and his state representative to make sure he was doing everything right before he reopened.
The 99W Drive-In Theatre is one of 305 drive-in theaters in the United States, according to the United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association.