Summer Irvine movie drive-in

Yejin Heo and Ryan Wu

The drive-in theatre, once the cultural zeitgeist of the 1950s and 60s, has since become antiquated as modern theater complexes became mainstream. However, due to the COVID-19 shutdowns, throwback drive- ins rose to popularity as a nostalgic alternative for moviegoing. Starlight Movie Night showcased movies and live improv comedy at the Irvine Spectrum Center this summer, ensuring a rare outing for families and friends that adhered to general safety guidelines.

Including films such as “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” “Avengers Endgame” and “The Hunger Games”, the outdoor theaters provided guests with a communal experience uncommon in the age of quarantine. A large outdoor screen was situated at the center of the parking lot, and guests used the FM transmitter radio in their car or a portable battery-operated stereo for the audio.

“I watched ‘Mean Girls’ at the Spectrum drive-in over the summer,” senior Riley Perez said. “Being in the back of my car and bringing my own snacks was a really fun experience.”

Getting the full drive-in movie experience came at a cost of $30 per car on Mondays and Tuesdays and $50 on other days except Saturday. Guests were able to use a complimentary $20 Irvine Spectrum Center gift card towards dinner and snacks prior to the start of the movie.

“I’ve never gone to a drive-in theater before, so it felt like a novelty, but I had a great time spending time with my friend there,” senior Keely McCarthy said.

Health precautions were mandated for moviegoers to maintain safety guidelines. Guests wore a face covering and practiced social distancing when outside their own vehicle, and it was mandatory to watch the movie from inside their cars or from their trunk.

“It was nice to get my mind off of everything that’s been going on, even if it was for just a short while,” junior Yun Seo Lee said. “I love that drive-ins are becoming more popular since film is such a big part of my life and drive-ins remind me of the happier times from the safety of my car.”

Although the Irvine Spectrum Center hosted its last drive-in movie on Sept. 7, Starlight Movie Night continues to host movies at other locations in Southern California, including The Outlets at San Clemente and Brea Mall.