In Pictures: Irish drive-in cinema's last screening amid pandemic

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Dublin, Ireland – On March 12, Ireland announced a partial lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the new coronavirus, including a ban on outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people.

With indoor gatherings of more than 100 people also banned, Ryan O’Neill and Barry Clarke had an idea: expand their drive-in movie business to provide families with outdoor entertainment amid the pandemic – all the while keeping safe inside their cars.

Within days, arrangements were made, extra staff were hired and a new website was designed. In almost no time, Retro Drive-In Movies was showing four films a day in three different locations across the country, compared with just one before.

For this to happen, extra precautions were needed to ensure physical distancing. Tickets were purchased online and scanned on arrival through the car window. Vehicles were required to park at a minimum of 1.5 metres (4.9 feet) apart. The staff directing the drivers and securing the area wore latex gloves at all times, while the portable toilet facilities featured a sanitising station equipped with hand gel and wipes.

“In normal circumstances, we would have up to 400 cars attending each session and several caravans selling food and beverages. We try to create a mini-festival atmosphere,” said Clarke, the general manager of the company and a childhood friend of O’Neill. However, no more than 150 cars were allowed per screening, with only one stall selling basic snacks at one customer at a time.

But on Friday, with the number of coronavirus infections and deaths rising in Ireland, the government introduced new restrictive measures, ordering people to stay in their homes with only limited exceptions. 

After two weeks of sold-out sessions, Retro Drive-in Movies’ activities instantly came to a halt.

“For now, this will be our last screening,” Clarke said. “But together, as a nation, we will defeat the virus and hopefully be back soon with many more great nights of cinema.”


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