Socially-distant cars rolled in for the opening of New York’s Warwick Drive-In theatre last Friday, creating a thought bubble of the possibilities that exist for Jamaica’s own movie theatre circuit.
It was only 16 years ago that the Palace Amusement Company Limited closed operations on its Harbour View Drive-In theatre after hurricane Ivan caused severe damage to the complex. But with the company having to close its theatres island-wide in March due to the social restrictions of the coronavirus, a drive-in experience is now on the table.
“We have a lot of encouragement from people, almost everybody that I speak with says, ‘how about a drive-in?’. It’s definitely uppermost in a lot of people’s minds and we are hoping we can make something happen,” Palace’s Marketing Manager, Melanie Graham, said. “Nothing is off the table; we have to find a way to survive but we don’t have anything definite yet to be able to say, ‘yes we are definitely doing this’, cause to set up a drive-in costs a lot of money. So many things have to be taken into account but we’re certainly looking at it to see what is possible.”
“Movie companies have virtually pulled back so big movie theatres are now playing re-releases.”– Palace’s Marketing Manager, Melanie Graham
Delineating the challenge, she added that even if the company used Carib 5’s parking lot, “there’s the stuff you need like projectors, a special lens, special bulb and a screen which is pretty expensive. It sounds good in the United States but when you put the numbers down you have to think about it and how you’re going to be able to manage it. You have to have loans to do these things and you have to know how you’re going to pay them back.”
The former golden-lit theatre entrances have now been replaced by closed gates and a movie-showing board which says in part, “We Miss You.” Graham said the decision to reopen the theatres must coincide with the moves of the government, as their normal evening show times do not complement the current curfew order which starts at 8pm.
“With the time as it is now, we wouldn’t be able to have two shows cause it’s very light until about minutes to 7 p.m., so we would need to go up to at least 11:30 p.m. to get two shows,” she said. “A lot of people are just getting home from work at that time, the early show, so as always we expect that the late show will be better.”
There’s also the pickle of movie options. Several film giants have postponed the premiere of highly anticipated movies for 2020, leaving smaller films up for grabs.
“Movie companies have virtually pulled back so big movie theatres are now playing re-releases,” she said. “We figure that there is probably a market for that, people just so desperately want to get out but they’re not going to tear your doors down to come in if you know what I mean.”
Until Palace announces its official decision, movie enthusiasts are continuing to curate their own theatre experience, from the classic Netflix and Chill indulgence, to newer trends like Zoom movie nights.