SOUTHINGTON — After not being able to show family movies on Saturday night this summer, the Southington Drive-In will screen its first movie of the season — “Walking with Dinosaurs” — tonight. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. and the movie begins at 7:40 p.m.
In the spring, the town decided not to open the municipal drive-in this summer because of the pandemic. In past summers, the movie nights featured children’s activities, food trucks and other offerings that are counter to maintaining social distance.
However, halfway through the summer, the drive-in committee was approached by Encore Live, a national concert promoter, about screening concert nights at the drive-in. The committee worked with Shane Lockwood, director of health for the Plainville-Southington health district, and Town Manager Mark Sciota to come up with a plan to safely host concert nights.
“Because it was mostly adults we figured they would stay in their vehicles… that was what they were mandated to do,” said Dawn Miceli, a member of the Southington Drive-In Committee. “You literally have to stay in your vehicle unless you need to use the restroom … We have no concessions whatsoever, so it was a very bare bone of what we were providing there.”
The first concert, featuring Garth Brooks, was a success, so the drive-in committee was comfortable with hosting another — a Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani concert. These pre-recorded concerts were also shown at other drive-in venues across the nation.
“So the artist specially records concerts just for drive-ins across the nation to show it on that one night, so on that one specific night, like 300 drive-ins across the country were showing that same specially recorded concert,” Miceli said.
After that, the drive in screened a Metallica concert. By following the same guidelines as the concert nights, the Southington Drive-In Committee received approval to start showing movies.
About 210 vehicles can attend tonight’s movie. Vehicles will have their own parking space. Within that space, people can place lawn chairs so they can watch the movie outside the vehicle.
“Each parking spot is seven feet wide,” Sciota said. “There is a 15-foot gap in between the next parking space … That is the protocol set forth by the state for any outside event like a drive-in. That was easy. It was already told to us about how we had to do it. It was just a matter of getting the public works people out there and painting all of the stripes.”
Another movie — “We Bought the Zoo” — is planned for Sept. 19. On Sept. 26, the drive-in is showing a Kane Brown concert.
“The committee works hard,” Miceli said. “We had a whole schedule put together. Each of our movie nights are operated by volunteers… We’ve been itching to do something for our families... I’m thrilled that we are getting back to the core of what we do at the Southington Drive-In, which is to show family movies on Saturday nights.”