NY Film Festival uses drive-in theaters to bring movies to the masses

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Thursday, September 17, 2020
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Despite the pandemic, Sandy Kenyon reports the New York Film Festival organizers have found a way to allow the show to go on.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The New York Film Festival normally takes place at Lincoln Center, but this year, like so many other events, it's going virtual amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Still, organizers have also found a way to show some of the movies to hundreds of people at a time, at drive-in movie theaters.

Call it a back to the future approach, a retro way of showing films that started to die out more than half a century ago.

Related: New York Film Festival sticks to core mission despite coronavirus pandemic changes

Some say the first drive-in movie theater was located in New Jersey, and there was one in the Bronx until the 1980s. But with real estate being as valuable as it is, theaters that require acres of land just were not economically feasible.

So where once there were many, there are now very few. However, the long twilight of the drive-in has given way to a new dawn due to COVID-19, which shut down all indoor movie theaters.

"We're so excited to be in drive-ins this year," NYFF director Eugene Hernandez said. "We can't gather en masse in theaters right now, but we can gather in smaller groups in a car or in our living room."

The 58th annual event has a full slate of films available on a virtual platform at FilmLinc.org/NYFF2020, but log on to the festival's site and you will also find a schedule of movies to be shown outdoors in Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx.

They are shown in partnership with Rooftop Films, and the non-profit's president, Dan Nuxoll, has decades of experience showing movies outdoors -- so the drive-in approach came naturally to him and his team.

"There's 6 feet between every car," he said. "So there really isn't any way to pass any sort of germs to the other people who are in attendance there."

Who knew the drive-in would experience this sort of revival? Not Nuxoll.

"Did I ever think it would come back like this? No," he said.

Related: Annual SummerStage Jubilee goes virtual amid coronavirus pandemic

But social distancing has become so important that drive-ins are having another moment, brought back to life by those who know how special these nights can be.

"You're in this enclosed environment, almost like you're in your living room with your friends, but you're also in a big crowd of maybe 800 people watching this movie all together," Nuxoll said.

The New York Film Festival runs through October 11.

WABC-TV is a proud media sponsor of the event, and tickets to many events are still available.

CLICK HERE for more information.

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