Story by Jenny Paulson –
Story by Jenny Paulson – Unlike many other states which have allowed drive-in theaters to stay open for a healthy diversion during the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s not the case for some drive-thrus in Colorado, where its been interpreted that outdoor movies watched from inside vehicles may be considered gathering of too many people.
When Gov Jared Polis ordered non-essential businesses, including all movie theaters to be closed, Pueblo’s Mesa Drive said it felt forced to delay the much awaited annual opening of their facilities – which typically takes place in March to early April, depending on the weather and on new movie releases.
Sadly, the Mesa Drive In posted on Facebook on March 7th, reporting that they were hoping to open in early April this year, saying “We are watching film release schedules and the weather. We’ll post with news about our opening when we know more.”
That was before Colorado’s governor realized that our state had already likely been hit with Covid-19 cases that hadn’t been tested, that would inevitably spread quickly during the month to most counties in the state. Thus the owner of the Mesa Drive in commented that they sadly had no idea when they will open this year.
The Mesa Drive In messaged back on the date of the writing of this story, April 14, confirming that their future is still unknown: “With the governor closing all theatres, including us, we have no idea when we will be able to open. We’ll post with news when we know.”
In Pueblo, as evidenced by the over 40,000 likes on the Mesa Drive In Facebook page, drive-in movies aren’t a relic of the past like in many areas of the state and nation – in fact they are enjoyed each summer season more than ever by loyal moviegoers and families families who enjoy good company, the sunsets before shows begin, and traditional food and tasty Pueblo sloppers at the concession stand.
Upon the initial posting this story April 14th, it was assumed all drive-thru’s in the state were closed due to Covid-19 rules, but we found out of the nine drive-ins in Colorado, at least the one in Delta has announced that they are re-opening soon and that the drive-in Monte Vista has stayed open without apparent legal ramifications, with recent shows and events – so hopefully the Pueblo drive-in will be able to follow suit.
It’s unknown how many of the about 330 drive-ins in the nation have been affected by government orders or confusion related to them and if they can be open or not.
The temporary closing of actual movie theaters over the Covid-19 pandemic has forced studios to stop releasing new movies right now. It’s predicted that if the pandemic continues to force closures of theaters, that studios may start releasing some new movies through on-demand streaming services instead.
It’s unknown what might change in coming months as the impact of Covid-19 is so unique that national, state and local officials don’t know how to begin opening up to business again. Gov Polis said at a recent press conference that he is going to let the public know several days before April 26th, his now extended stay-at-home orders, just what businesses may re-open, if any, in light of the continuing spread of Coivid-19 in the state.
With summer coming, it’s a hope by moviegoers, including the owner of the Mesa Drive In, that Gov Polis will clear the confusion about drive-in theaters to help provide a diversion for movie goers and a solution for studios to play their movies.
In other states where officials allowed drive-ins to stay open. Officials reasoned that they were safe places because people could naturally social distance themselves from others by staying in their vehicles. Many concession stands in such states, once with pickup windows, have been changed to curbside pickup or delivery to vehicles.
That’s what may happen in Pueblo.
Tiffany Howard, loyal to the Mesa Drive In, posted in comments her disappointment upon learning that the Mesa Drive In won’t open as planned in April, “It’s crazy, you should be open.. I pray for you and yours, I hope you can open soon. Once we can be allowed to work and consume again, we sure will be there!!! We are fine with social distancing, so we figured, DRIVE IN!!! Guess not… My kids are going mad, lol!”
Local movie goer, Debby Steele commented at the Facebook page of Mesa Drive In, “All (of) Pueblo is excited for you to Open! We love you! Just know when you do open we will be there!”
The Mesa Drive In has previously been used for weddings and other events in the past. And recently, an idea presented on a popular Pueblo Adopt a Senior 2020 Facebook group, of graduations possibly held safely at the local drive-in was highly supported and may be worthy enough to catch the attention of the local school board and governor.
As for pending movies, its predicted that if Gov Polis decides to clarify that drive-ins may be open for movie and other uses sometime soon, even without regular movie theaters re-opening, it may be that viewers will have to watch second-run or older movies for a time because of the withholding of new shows.
But even if that’s the case, as Mesa Drive Inn commented it may be, that likely won’t stop local moviegoers from heading out for a break at the beloved Pueblo drive-in, after months long cabin fever and stress from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Arial Heart commented to the Mesa Drive In, “The sooner the better. People need the entertainment and drive ins are built in social distancing.”
Although the popularity of drive-ins has declined in recent years, in places like LA, they are on the rise once again during the pandemic. And likely they’ll be more popular than ever in Pueblo as well.
The roots of drive-in theaters actually came from the 1910s and at their peak in the 1950s, there were over 4,000 drive-ins in the United States. They declined with the invention of dvd’s, Redbox, and now steaming but in some places, their popularity has always lived on.
Including in a place of great tradition, that boasts many well supported old time businesses – Pueblo, Colorado.
Jenny Paulson is an Independent Journalist and publisher of Pueblo Independent Magazine as well as admin of many local Facebook pages.