Since March, trend pieces have charted the COVID-era resurgence of drive-in movie theaters.

From the Smithsonian: “This Is the Summer of the Drive-In Theater.” From Bloomberg:How the American Drive-In Staged a Comeback.” From INDY theater critic Byron Woods: “The Coronavirus Is Bringing Back the Glory Days of the Drive-in Theater.” 

Summer came and went. But Randi Emerman, the founder and executive director of Film Fest 919, has found that, as the pandemic stretches on, people are still looking for novel, collective forms of entertainment that take them outside of their homes and offer an old-fashioned cinematic experience. 

“It’s something for people to do that’s safe and you feel comfortable doing and being entertained,” Emerman says. “And, you know, the filmmakers didn’t make these movies to be seen in home.” 

Emerman and co-founder Carol Marshall debuted Film Fest 919 in 2018 at Silverspot Cinema. It was a way to spark the buzz and bring festival-circuit films to the Triangle ahead of their release. This year, they decided to forge ahead with the tradition, and brought the festival format outdoors. The second annual Film Fest 919 launched at Caraway Village on October 14 with One Night in Miami.

It was a success; so Emerman and Marshall are continuing on with a new slate of retro-focused winter programming and expect the installation to be a permanent one. On Wednesday, the “Throwback Movies” series kicked off  with the 1959 screwball comedy Some Like it Hot. The January lineup will feature “Vintage Hollywood” on Wednesdays, a “Hitchcock Revival” on Thursdays, “Love on the Screen” on Fridays, and “Family Night at the Movies” on Saturdays. 

“There’s whole generation that has never seen any of these movies on a big screen,” Emerman says. “I’m there every single night because I’m the one who scans your tickets. I talking to everybody as they come in through their windows—very socially distanced, mind you—and some have never been to a drive-in before.” 

Food trucks are on-site every night—the Emerman and Marshall don’t charge vendors—and tickets are available at $12.90 GA for adults and $10.75 a pop for kids ages four to 10. 

“This is a small, locally owned woman business and it needs people to come out and support it,” Emerman says. “Theaters need support just like restaurants and everything else.” 

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