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Tehran Parking Lot Turns Into a Drive-In Theater, Lifting Iran’s 41-Year-Old Ban

The country screened Ebrahim Hatamikia's Persian-language movie “Exodus” each night for a week.

An Iranian couple sit at their vehicle in a Drive-in cinema in western Tehran, following the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Iran, on May 1, 2020. Drive-in cinema organized by the Owj Arts and Media Organization which is one of the subordinate organizations of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) held for the first time after the victory of Iran's Islamic Revolution.Drive-in cinema during the coronavirus lockdown, Tehran, Iran - 01 May 2020

An Iranian couple sit at their vehicle in a Drive-in cinema in western Tehran

MORTEZA NIKOUBAZL/SIPA/Shutterstock

As drive-in theaters make a roaring comeback across America in the wake of movie theater shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic, so too are they being reintroduced in Iran. Drive-in movie theaters have been banned in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but the first drive-in theater in over 40 years has opened in Tehran as of May 1 (via Associated Press). Regular movie theaters across Iran are closed as the country has reported more than 98,600 coronavirus cases with over 6,200 deaths. The Tehran drive-in is “the only public location showing movies in a communal setting in all of Iran.”

According to the AP, tickets to showings at the drive-in cost $10 and cars are sprayed down with disinfectants by workers before they are allowed into the parking lot. Attendees tune into an FM station on their car radio to listen to the movie being played. The first week of the drive-in screened the Persian-language movie “Exodus” each night. The Ebrahim Hatamikia-directed feature “focuses on cotton farmers whose fields die from salt water brought by local dams. The farmers drive their tractors to Tehran to protest the government.”

“It was very fascinating, this is the first time this is happening, at least for people my age,” 36-year-old Behrouz Pournezam told the AP. “We are here mostly for the excitement to be honest, the movie itself didn’t matter that much. I didn’t care what movie it is or by whom or which genre.”

Moviegoer Atefeh Soheili told the AP that the drive-in was beneficial in allowing adults to get out of the house while adhering to strict safety measures. “Now I’m sitting here with clean hands and if I want to eat something or relax I don’t need to worry about distancing from other people,” she said.

Drive-in theaters were banned in Iran partly because revolutionaries feared they allowed too much privacy for unmarried young couples. Drive-in theaters are also booming in America, with one Texas movie theater going viral at the beginning of April for converting its theater parking lot into a makeshift drive-in. Tribeca just announced it will be partnering with IMAX to launch a curated series of films and specials that will screen at drive-in theaters across the U.S. IMAX will retrofit participating drive-in theaters with IMAX-quality screen and sound.

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