A warm weather rite of passage returned for the first time this year over the weekend — and with normal activities halted during the coronavirus pandemic, Capital Region families were ready.
The line of cars waiting outside the Jericho Drive-In movie theater in Glenmont, just outside Albany, stretches down the street and out of sight on this Saturday. Drivers and ticket takers alike wear masks, and each car receives a set of strict safety rules.
Owner Lisa Chenette says it’s great that they sold out opening night, but they’re facing an uncertain summer, which requires some creativity.
“Because a lot of the movie releases have been pushed back to July, September, Thanksgiving, and Christmas,” Chenette says. “So, we’re not actually sure what our season is going to look like. We do have a lot of high school graduations planned for the month of June so we won’t be having a lot of movies in the month of June on the weekends. So we’re just trying to figure out what we can play and maybe some other activities we can do here at the drive-in.”
Chenette says you have to wear a mask every time you leave your vehicle – and guests are encouraged to not leave their vehicles at all. Concessions are ordered online, and people are no longer allowed to set up chairs or blankets outside of their cars to watch the show.
Despite all that, families are ready. An hour before the show, the lot is already packed.
Krystal Karash Todd from Ravena is cozying up with her husband Steve, stepson Noah and daughter Aris – buried in pillows and blankets in the backseat.
“We’ve been looking forward to this forever, Krystal said. “For weeks. I mean even before the pandemic we bought our season passes.”
Noah and Aris say there’s something magical about being at the drive-in instead of the living room.
“Because you get to see it on a big screen and it make it whole more bigger,” Noah said.
Their parents say there’s another added benefit:
“Getting out of the house,” Steve said. “And this is the beginning of the summer to me. I love the drive-in.”
“And it’s a good deal,” Krystal said. “A lot of times they’ll do a triple feature and usually we have another kid with us and we get to see a movie for $35. Three movies for 35 bucks.”
Geneseo student Olivia Fazio, Tia Snyder, a senior at Shaker High School, and her younger sister Kylee Snyder of Shaker Junior High all transitioned to remote learning due to the pandemic. They’re propped up on their elbows listening to pop music and eating burritos.
Olivia misses being at Geneseo and says the drive-in is a brief return to normal.
“It’s definitely – it’s just so weird because we’ve never experienced anything like it,” Olivia said. “So it’s just so unprecedented where you’ve just got to roll with it I guess but it’s definitely weird being home from school.”
Olivia says she misses normal things – like leaving the house for no reason.
“Being able to go places and see my friends and family – that’s going to be the best part,” Olivia said. “And just giving someone a hug.”
“And just having like things being open,” Tia said. “Like it’s just different when you just go out and even if we’re just driving around.”
After a striking pink sunset, one by one, drivers start tuning their radios.
A “Simpsons” short about Maggie finding love kicks things off. And then the main event.
Sitting in a truck in the warm spring air, in front of a giant movie screen while families crunch through the gravel to pick up popcorn and ice cream…watching puppies run up to strangers because they don’t care about social distancing, and kids adjusting their Spider-Man masks – well, it’s a far cry from people yelling at each other in the grocery store over who got to the toilet paper first.