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‘Pop-Up’ Drive-In Theaters Providing Safe Entertainment During Pandemic

Drive-In Movie Theater Coming Friday To Milwaukee

A pop-up drive-in movie in a New York parking lot
“Dirty Dancing” is shown at a pop-up drive-in movie held in the parking lot of the Bel Aire Diner, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, in the Queens borough of New York during the coronavirus pandemic. Mark Lennihan/AP Photo

With some indoor movie theaters still closed or limiting the number of attendees because of the coronavirus pandemic, drive-in theaters are giving Wisconsinites the ability to get out, enjoy movies and spend time with family.

Multiple drive-in theaters have opened for business throughout the past few weeks or plan to soon, including Chilton Twilight Outdoor Theater in Chilton, the Milky Way Drive In in Franklin, Sky Vu Drive In Movie Theater in Monroe, Moonlight Outdoor Theater in Shawano, and Field of Scenes Outdoor Theater in Freedom.

Milwaukee is getting its first “pop-up” drive-in theater this weekend. Parking Lot Theatre, organized by Milwaukee community activists, is having its inaugural event Friday.

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Anne Koller, one of the organizers of the pop-up theater, said she and her partner, Manny Lara, wanted to create a safe space for families to come and enjoy themselves during the pandemic.

“We’ve been creating these amazing partnerships to bring Milwaukeeans together, to really bring this to Milwaukee,” Koller said. “These opportunities happen a lot of times on the outskirts and in the suburbs and great places around the state. How can we bring those opportunities to people in the heart of the city?”

Koller said the pop-up theater experience will allow residents to support local artists and business while enjoying a movie or performance safely from their car.

While people pull into the parking lot, they will be entertained by a local artist while they wait for the movie to start. This Friday, acoustic guitarist Joe Wray will be performing.

Food will also be available from a local restaurant for purchase and there will be a restroom for those who may need it.

The first pop-up event will be in the city’s Menomonee Valley district starting at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $25 per car and tickets can be purchased at the Parking Lot Theatre website.

“The response has been astounding,” Koller said. “It was like 10,000-plus comments and likes and shares and feedback and ideas. They were just so rich. People were just aching to collaborate and try this.”

MaskUpMKE, a local initiative created to get more face masks in the hands of first responders, is donating masks for the event for people who need them. Koller said public health and safety is their main concern.

Koller said there isn’t set list for future pop-up locations, but the hope is to have a pop-up theater event for multiple neighborhoods in the Milwaukee area.

“There’s always going to be parking lots,” Koller said. “Even if society opens completely, which I highly doubt that will happen, this could still happen throughout the summer, in the fall, even in winter.”

Dane County also has a new drive-in theater for families to enjoy. Earlier this month, officials announced the Madison Mallards’ Duck Pond outfield would be transformed into a drive-in theater.

The start of baseball season has been put on hold because of the pandemic.

Roughly 100 cars will fit on the field and it costs $40 per car. Tickets are being sold electronically on the Mallards website. Restrooms and a concession stand are available for attendees and masks must be worn if people are outside their vehicles.

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