Five-star rating - Long-awaited drive-in cinema launch gets passing grade
Technical difficulties and inclement weather caused Palace Amusement to postpone Friday’s grand opening of their New Kingston Drive-In Cinema, but only for 24 hours.
Having sorted through the technical glitches and with the rains having temporarily subsided, the new drive-in facility officially welcomed its first set of guests on Saturday evening. It may not have been the jam-packed turnout owners were expecting, but for the guests that did turn up, the evening scored five-star ratings all around.
With overcast skies, it was perhaps the perfect weather to soak up the once-popular outdoor movie experience. With all the regular concession items available for purchase — popcorn, nachos and cheese, and hot dogs — aside from the fact that one would be watching from the comfort of their car, the experience presented no significant difference to that of indoor theatres.
Guests with whom The Gleaner spoke expressed a clear preference for the drive-in experience. With COVID-19 still causing many to be sceptical about public ventures, moviegoers were delighted that they could enjoy their cinematic pleasures while safely social distancing. The experience was particularly exciting for the younger patrons, who, before Saturday, only heard stories about drive-in theatres.
Speaking with The Gleaner, 15-year-old Anna Scarlett could hardly keep the smile off her face as she spoke about her first time at a drive-in. “This is really nice. I love it. You’re out in the open, which I think is the best thing right now, and you can sit back, relax and just enjoy a whole movie in your car with your family,” she said. “With the virus still active, I prefer to be in this kind of setting, honestly.”
Her nine-year-old sister, Emma, echoed her sentiments. “I’m really enjoying this. It’s different from the movies, and I actually like it better because we don’t have to be all scrunched up with other people. We can just be in our own space together as a family and have popcorn and laugh and talk.”
The girls were accompanied by their mother, Susan, who said that when she heard the drive-in would be resurrected, she knew she had to take them to soak in the experience for themselves. “They have never been to a drive-in before, and I really wanted them to have this experience. I remember my days at the drive-in, and I kinda just wanted them to have a piece of this special kind of entertainment. It’s very nostalgic being here; it feels the same as it did 20 years ago. It was a good experience for me then, and it’s still a good experience today. I have to admit I feel more comfortable at the drive-in than I do at the indoor theatres right now, although they do have top-class precaution measures in place at the theatre.”
And patrons were not the only individuals happy that the drive-in has finally opened its gates. Staff members with whom The Gleaner spoke expressed sheer joy at the grand opening particularly those who were laid off as a result of the closure of Sovereign Centre’s Cineplex facility.
“When I heard that Cineplex was closing, I didn’t believe at first, but when they told us that we should get everything we had in our lockers because it would be our last day, things got real, and it made me really sad,” said Nasstacia Blake. “When they had the meeting and told us about the drive-in, my heart did backflips. Although I live with my parents, I like to have my own money so I can help with bills and so on, because I work and go to a nursing school. When I told my mother I was called back to work at the drive-in, she said, ‘Yuh see God good, because one door close and a next one open’. Mi just happy and I give thanks say me get take off the lay-off list because mi couldn’t manage dat. Mi feel good inna mi self say mi can earn an income again.”
Tyrique Wiliams dubbed Palace Amusement his ‘home’ as he expressed gratitude to also be back on the payroll after being laid off. “Palace is like a home for me. I have only been working there for a year and two months, but the bonds I have formed and the friendships I have gained makes it feel like a family at work. Getting the news that Cineplex was gonna close for a temporary period, it was really hard, and I was really sad,” he said. “When they announced a drive-in cinema, I was happy because I knew I’d be working again. I really hope everything works out so that we can keep the gates open.”
Melanie Graham, marketing manager at Palace Amusement, said the latter is the company’s aim even when things return to normal post-COVID. She expressed that having beaten all the odds in getting to the grand opening, she just hopes Jamaica will support the drive-in so they can keep the facility running.
“I am not surprised that not many people came tonight, because it was such short notice after the postponement that we decided to go ahead with the opening, and I know the weather still played a part; but we are very grateful for those that came, and I think they enjoyed it,” she said.
“This opening came through prayer. We wanted it to go without a hitch, and it did, so we are thankful. We have a whole lot of ideas in mind on how to make the experience better as we go along, and we’re just fine-tuning those now and planning the execution phase. We have a two-year contract at this location, and us keeping this initiative going is really up to patrons. If they want it and they support it, we’ll keep it going.”
The New Kingston drive-in on Dominica Drive opens every evening at 6 p.m. Showtime is at 6:30, and the current feature film is The War with Grandpa. Tickets to catch the movies at this new location will cost $,1250 for adults and $800 for children.