The last drive-in movie theater in the Eugene/Springfield area, located at 1450 Henderson Avenue, closed in 1987, according to CinemaTreasures.org, one of the internet’s most thorough and comprehensive sources for movie and movie theater history. Since then, drive-in movies have become emblematic of a certain lost togetherness, both in the experience of watching movies, but also in American life in general.
This summer, in the midst of deep political discord and social gathering restrictions due to the pandemic, drive-in movies have seen a resurgence all over the world, including Lane County.
This weekend offers two chances to catch drive-in movies locally at Lane Events Center, and beginning Aug. 14, Old Nick’s Pub in the Whiteaker Neighborhood will screen drive-in movies in its parking lot every Friday and Saturday night, following a two-night trial run in late July.
Rachel Bivens, marketing manager and assistant fair manager at Lane Events Center, says that after the Lane County Fair was canceled due to the coronavirus, her colleagues knew the community was losing a beloved summer tradition, but also, their partnering vendors were missing out on a tremendous amount of revenue.
“We wanted to create a summer event that focuses on safety and fun at the same time, and the movies fit that perfectly,” she tells Eugene Weekly in an email.
Old Nick’s decision to try drive-in movies was a means of grappling with lost revenue from live music, but also a way to give the community something safe and fun to do in the meantime.
Emily Nyman and her crew — primarily Old Nick’s employee Jean Woest, whom Nyman says has been instrumental in facilitating these events — sourced equipment online, including a roughly 130-by-80-inch screen and an FCC-rated FM transmitter for sound.
Although Nyman calls the experiment in drive-in movies a risk for the bar, she hopes it can provide some solace for those who’ve been feeling isolated during the pandemic.
“A lot of people who have signed up for tickets are people who have not felt comfortable coming into the pub” since Phase 2 reopening, Nyman says, adding it’s important to do little things like drive-in movies to help us all get through coronavirus together, “for everyone’s mental health, if not for any other reason.”
Depending on the success of drive-in movies, we could see drive-in live music at Old Nick’s as well.
“I’m hoping Eugene is thirsty for some live music, because we’re probably not going to get live music back for a while,” she says.
Old Nick’s movie programming is somewhat limited due to licensing fees, and Nyman says the calendar will remain tentative until licensing agreements can be reached.
In their first weekend of movies, though, Old Nick’s chose two open-source films: the 1960 version of Little Shop of Horrors and 1959’s The Haunting of Hill House with Vincent Price.
The club plans to continue scheduling cult classics in a similar vein, Nyman says.
The full Old Nick’s menu will be available to order for car-side service ending at 10 pm, with the addition of popcorn, hot dogs and hamburgers. No alcohol permitted, Nyman says.
On Friday, July 31, Lane Events Center will screen the Kevin Costner baseball classic Field of Dreams, and on Saturday, Aug. 1, it will show Smokey and the Bandit, the ’70s-era road action comedy starring Burt Reynolds. Tickets are $20 per car in advance, $23 at the center.
“Tickets go on sale at 9 am the Monday before the showing,” Bivens from Lane Events Center explains. “Each ticket is scanned at the gate and then a series of volunteers guide guests to a parking spot, based on the size of their vehicle.” Movie-goers must watch from inside their vehicles; no lawn chairs allowed and no drinking allowed in cars.
Food can be ordered from the car for delivery via the Lane Events Center website, she says.
Tickets at Old Nick’s are $8 adults, $5 11-17 and free for kids 10 and under. Single person cars are $15. No alcohol service to cars.
For more information about Lane Events Center’s Summer Midway Movie Series, which is sponsored in part by Metropolitan Wastewater Management Commission, go to LaneEventsCenter.org. For further information and scheduling updates search Old Nick’s Pub on Facebook.