UNION COUNTY, NJ — In the face of coronavirus, movie theaters are closed to the public in Union County and across the country. Because it is difficult to social-distance inside a movie theater and because the virus can spread through close contact, a movie theater can be a risky place.
Without the use of movie theaters but utilizing a collection of great movies, Union County has joined a growing list of counties that are bringing back the drive-in movie. The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders has scheduled several free walk-up and drive-up movies throughout the summer. Walk-up movies allow patrons to gather, with social distancing, in an open space to watch the films while sitting on blankets or lawn chairs; drive-up movies operate like drive-in movie theaters, with attendees remaining in their motor vehicles.
Reflecting on how successful the first walk-up movie — “Abominable,” on July 14 — was, county Communications Director Sebastian D’Elia gave some insight into the thought process in organizing this series of movie screenings.
“Since movie theaters were closed due to the COVID-19 crisis, the freeholders came up with this idea as a safe way to provide entertainment to our residents,” D’Elia said on July 16. “This first drive-up movie was sold out with more than 200 cars,” he said of the July 21 screening, which sold out well before the date of the show.
Even though the concept of the drive-in movie has undergone a resurgence in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, there is one major difference between the walk-up and drive-up movies taking place in Union County and classic drive-in movie theaters: No snacks will be provided. But attendees are free to bring their own.
“As long as COVID is a concern, walk-up and drive-up movies will stay around for as long as necessary,” D’Elia said.
Concerning social distancing, the drive-up events help immensely.
“The events provide the community with a safe way to get out during the COVID-19 emergency, and residents will be able to enjoy a movie,” D’Elia said. “As the emergency continues, we anticipate that our residents will continue to enjoy these movies in a safe setting in compliance with COVID-19 protocols.”
Freeholder Chairperson Alexander Mirabella echoed the sentiment.
“The freeholder board is pleased to offer this opportunity for our residents to enjoy a night out at the movies with their families while staying safe during the COVID-19 outbreak,” Mirabella said.
According to a media release from the county, the summer 2020 movie schedule included walk-up movie “Abominable” on July 14 in Warinanco Park in Roselle and drive-up movie “Frozen II” on July 21 at the Union County Vo-Tech in Scotch Plains.
Remaining walk-up movies scheduled are “Secret Life of Pets 2” on Aug. 4 at Rahway Park in Rahway and the 2019 version of “The Lion King” on Aug. 11 at Watchung Reservation in Mountainside. Remaining drive-up movies scheduled are two screenings of “Scoob,” on Aug. 14 and 15 at Union County Vo-Tech.
All movies are free and begin at dusk. These events will run in compliance with state COVID-19 orders regarding social distancing and other protocols.
For walk-up movies, social distance of 6 feet must be maintained between groups. Masks must be worn where social distancing is not possible and are required when using port-a-potties.
Drive-up movies are open to Union County residents and will require preregistration. One registration is required per car. To Register, visit https://tinyurl.com/driveupmovie. Registration will be open at 9 a.m. one week prior to the movie date. Due to space limitations, reservations will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.