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How the American Drive-In Staged a Comeback

Designed for the suburbs of 1950s America, the drive-in theater found a new role in the summer of 2020, as a Covid-safe site for collective entertainment.

Moviegoers at the Bengies Drive-In outside of Baltimore, which boasts the largest screen on the East Coast. It reopened in June this summer to accommodate movie-hungry crowds. 

Photographer: PAUL J.RICHARDS/AFP via Getty Images

As the sun sets, the excitement rises. More than 200 cars are gathered at the West Wind Drive-In in Solano, California, about a 30-minute drive from Berkeley. Some folks are watching from inside their cars; others are huddled together in pickup truck beds. 

I put on my mask, roll down my window and call out across the 10-foot gap that separates our car from our neighbor. “What was the radio channel again?”