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New York City Diner Turns Into Makeshift Drive-In Theater to Help Business Survive

The demand for moviegoing amid the pandemic might just be a savior for this Queens restaurant.

Queens residents were treated to a pop up drive-in viewing of 'Dirty Dancing' at the Bel-Aire Diner in Astoria'Dirty Dancing' drive-in screening during Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak, New York, USA - 13 May 2020

The Bel-Aire Diner in Astoria

Stephanie Augello/Shutterstock

Drive-in movie theaters aren’t just keeping the theatrical experience alive amid the coronavirus pandemic, they’re also being utilized by businesses to help them stay afloat. The Bel Aire Diner in Astoria, Queens has converted its parking lot into a makeshift drive-in movie theater (via ABC News) in an attempt to boost business. The owners made the decision after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced earlier this week that drive-in theaters could resume operation in the state.

Restaurants in New York City are only allowed to serve take out. Customers are not allowed to dine in a restaurant space through at least May 28. The Dellaportis family, which owns the Bel Aire Diner, decided that if they can’t serve customers inside then they’d create a reason to serve them outside. Cut to the makeshift drive-in theater in the diner’s parking lot. Customers can now watch watch a movie and order takeout from the diner, which is delivered to their cars by diner workers wearing gloves and face masks. The drive-in launched Wednesday, 13 with two showings of “Dirty Dancing.”

Drive-in movie theaters have been surging in the midst of the pandemic. The Associated Press reported this week that IFC Films has grossed over $200,000 from drive-in theaters over the last two weeks thanks to titles such as “The Wretched” and “True History of the Kelly Gang.” “The Wretched” debuted to a strong $70,000 opening weekend earlier this, even with the title available for purchase on VOD.

The Bel Aire Diner is far from the only business relying on the drive-in theater to boost earnings. The EVO Entertainment movie theater in Schertz, Texas went viral in April after it converted its parking lot into a drive-in theater and started selling out all its showtimes. The theater was not allowed to operate indoors as the state shut down all movie theaters, so the company painted an exterior wall of the building with a high-grain white paint that images can be projected on to turn the parking lot into a theater. AM/FM radios broadcast the sound inside each vehicle. Drive-in theaters continue to be a popular option even as some movie theaters begin to re-open their doors with extreme safety measures intact.

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