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Your Guide to Hosting a Drive-In Movie Night

Guide to Drive-In Theater with LED Screen Rental

With new rules and regulations constantly changing regarding crowds and large events during COVID-19, it can be difficult to keep up with what is allowed. People are getting creative with drive-in style events, virtual events, and outdoor socially distanced events.

You will need to check with local, state, and federal laws and updates to make sure the event you are planning is within the safety guidelines. Unfortunately we can’t provide full guidance with the legal side because it is constantly changing and different in every location, but in this article we will go over some of the logistics and other things you may need to consider when planning a drive-in style event.

What to Watch the Movie On

One of the most important parts of hosting a movie night is the screen to play the movie on. Although you may want to throw up a sheet or get a projection screen, that likely isn’t the best option, Projections only work when it is completely dark out, so even dusk can make it difficult to see the image. This is why an LED video screen is a good choice for any outdoor drive-in event. The picture of these screens are bright, even in direct sunlight in the middle of the day. This way you aren’t limited to the time you can play content on the screen, and the image on the LED screens is bright and clear compared to projection.

If you decide to go with an LED video wall, we have several options to fit your needs. We have four mobile jumbotrons that set up and tear down quickly, decreasing labor costs. Our mobile screens come in two sizes allowing you to choose the appropriate screen for your audience. We also have modular LED tiles that allow us to build custom-size and shape video screens. Once you know your approximate crowd size and layout you can choose how many screens you will need and what size they should be. If you aren’t sure, we would be happy to assist given more info on your event.

Audio Needs for Your Movie Night

One option to listen to the movie of course is to have speakers and a sound system. However, with everyone spaced out so much and likely in or near vehicles, the best solution could be to use an FM transmitter. Speakers can also be too loud for those up close but too quiet for those in the back. With an FM transmitter guests can listen to the audio from their car stereo or portable radio. Our technician can set it up so the movie and event audio plays through a specified radio station that anyone within a certain proximity can listen to.

While you already have audio set up for your event, you may also want to set up a mic on a stage for hosts, announcements, or other entertainment for your event. You can also play other audio such as pre-recorded clips, sponsor videos, or live music before or after the movie. All of this can be played through the transmitter, speakers, or both.

Venue and Layout

A large parking lot or open field work great for drive-in movies. Start with the layout of your space, then what you want to do with your event. Is is simply a movie showing, or will there be other entertainment or live music? Will there be a host or someone introducing the videos? Do you need a stage? Is there other activities such as games, rides, food stands, etc.? What is the traffic flow of people entering and exiting the space? What are your plans for bathrooms? Is there a ticketing or check-in system? Think about everything that will be a part of your event so you can create the best layout for your guests.

Once you know exactly what you will be doing, you will want to get an idea for how many people you expect to attend your event. This will determine how many screens and what size screens you will need. You will also need to know how you plan to layout the vehicles and spacing between so you know how many you can fit in your space. We have seen different methods to socially distance your crowd. You may require guests to stay in there vehicles, then you could likely fit more people in the space. However, guests will likely enjoy the ability to exit the car and sit next to in lawn chairs or blankets, and if that is the case, you will to space out cars accordingly. Whatever you decide, make sure to check with current laws and ordinances for that specific location.

You will want to have staff or volunteers to guide drivers to the correct location. You may choose to have assigned spots or assign them as they come in. You may want to paint numbers of the spots, have ropes, or cones to keep things organized. And smooth traffic flow before and after the event is something that can be overlooked, so make sure to have a plan for this.

Ticketing and Other Logistics

Depending on the purpose of your drive-in event, you will want to decide on how to charge guests. If you are holding the event for free, that’s great! But for many, you will need to charge a fee either to make money or just to cover costs of the event. In that case you will need to determine how people will pay. If possible, it is typically best to have guests pay ahead of time and just have them check in or present a ticket. This means you will also want someone to work the entrance to allow people in, as well as people directing traffic as they enter. Often times these events will charge a flat fee per vehicle rather than per person.

You will also need to consider bathrooms if you are in a venue that wasn’t built for large gatherings. And even if it was, things might be different because of social distancing, so you may still need additional safe options. Consider renting portable bathrooms and handwashing stations.

Food trucks and food vendors are also a huge hit at these events. You may want to reach out to some to set up on your grounds to provide food and drink to your guests. You may have them operate as normal where guests go up to them order and pickup, or you can provide menus and a way to order online to make things more efficient. You could also have food runners deliver to the vehicles so keep people close to their assigned spot and not wandering around the venue.

The Legal Stuff

We are in unprecedented times due to COVID, and rules and regulations are constantly changing, and vary from city to city and state to state. That means it is very important to know the exact restrictions for your location to make sure you are in compliance. And because things are changing, you will want to have a backup plan or some insurance in case you need to cancel or scale back the event.

You will likely want to look into liability insurance for your event/venue, unless the venue or organization is already covered. You or your business would be liable for certain incidents that could happen at a live event, so you will want to make sure you are covered should something happen at your drive-in theater.

One other important step when hosting a drive-in movie night is to obtain the license for the movie(s) you will be showing. Anytime you are playing a movie in public you will likely need to obtain the rights for it. If you choose not to purchase a license, the penalty can be significant, charged as a federal crime with up to five years in prison or a fine up to $250,000. Playing a movie outside of your home beyond a small group of family or friends almost certainly requires a license, but you can watch this video to see when a license might be required:

When You Need a Movie License

Purchasing a license can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. There are many factors that determine the price of the specific movie, including where the movie is being shown, if there is admission to the event, which company owns the movie rights, how many times it will be shown, and the age or popularity of the movie. For example, a huge blockbuster is going to cost more than a more obscure movie from twenty years ago. You can check with Swank Motion Pictures or Criterion Pictures to purchase a license. They have a wide variety of available license, and can help with the process.

Getting the Most From Your Screen

Since you are already renting a video wall for the movie, you might as well get the most from your jumbotron screen. Why not have several showings, or play multiple movies, with a children’s movie earlier and more adult movies later at night. Or maybe you want to have live music at the event, we can display live camera(s) showing the action on the stage directly to the big screen. Or our cameras can show an event host or speakers.

Our video board can also be a great way for event sponsors to get in front of your audience. Sponsors are a perfect way to get funding for your event, and if you can provide them valuable time on the jumbotron to play their ads or logos, they will be more likely to donate money to the event. We can play these ads before, after, and between movies or other action. The screen can also be used to display promotional or informational content on your business, organization, or cause. Whatever you would like to play on the big screen, we can make it happen. Just let us know ahead of time if you have other plans for the screen so we can be best prepared.

During the time of social distancing, a drive-in theater can be one of the best ways for people to get out of the house and have something to look forward to. If you are considering hosting one of these drive-in theaters, we would be honored to provide a screen, or screens, for your crowd, and would be happy to share our experience with these events to help you plan yours. Beyond a drive-in movie, you could also host a drive-in religious service, concert, or more. Please let us know if we can help with your socially distanced event. Take a look at the movie below showing our screens at a drive-in graduation recently:

Fire Up Video provides LED jumbotron screens for event rentals all over the Midwest, including states such as Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, and more. For more information, please contact us at 612-759-1012 or baum3@earthlink.net.

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