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Social restrictions drive us back to the silver screen


The state’s cinemas might be closed due to COVID-19 social restrictions, but the desire to still watch a movie on the big screen has driven demand for one of Queensland’s last remaining drive-ins.

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Yatala drive-in, part of the independently owned Five Star Cinemas chain, which also owns Elizabeth Street Picture Theatre and Red Hill and new Farm Cinemas, has been trading from Thursdays to Sundays for the past two weekends.

“The Government mandated that cinemas were some of the first business to close, along with pubs and nightclubs, so we just shut straight away and with the cinemas we’re just waiting until probably mid-July,” co-owner Peter Sourris told InQueensland.

“But the drive-in is a different beast really, it’s an outdoor venue, so the legislation enabled us to operate the drive-in, because people can stay socially isolated in their cars, so we thought we’d open the drive-in and focus on that until we can reopen the cinemas.”

Sourris said the venue, which is currently screening one film per session and capping attendance at 50 per cent of full capacity to ensure social distancing can be properly maintained, had proven popular with both regular visitors and newcomers since its reopening over the Labour Day weekend.

“There are a lot of regulars that have come back and some new people that hadn’t been before that see it as a safe outing for the family, so everyone’s been pleasantly surprised.

“We expected it to be quite busy because people had been holed up for six weeks and they feel safe staying in their own vehicle.”

He said tickets could only be purchased online presently, and although the snack bar was open and abiding by necessary social restrictions, “people can just stay in their car for an hour-and-a-half if they want”.

“They can have their tickets scanned, bring their own snacks and stay in the car the whole time, they don’t even have to get out.

“I think people will find it a comfortable environment, and a safe environment to go out and not worry about mixing with other people, but that can come along.”

The drive-in has been screening films that were released earlier this year such as Sonic the Hedgehog and Jumanji: The Next Level, and Sourris said there were plans to screen more cult films over the coming weeks before distributors start releasing new titles.

“We had Mamma Mia for Mother’s Day, which did well, and there are not really many new titles being released by until mid-July, so we’re going to try to screen some of the more popular films from earlier this year, and some cult films – like Back to the Future, maybe some Star Wars, The Princess Bride, or a few Disney classics.”

Sourris said as well as offering visitors peace of mind and a feeling of safety while social restrictions were occurring, the drive-in also was also a throwback to “simpler times”.

“I think it’s a step back to simpler days, when people could just go in their pyjamas with their families. It’s not surround sound, it’s more of a casual experience, but I think people like that. And especially with the virus, people find it a comfortable environment, and a safe environment to go out and not worry about mixing with other people.”

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