Curtain closes on New Kingston Drive-In
For movie lovers and adventure buffs who have never experienced a drive-in movie, Sunday is set to be the final day to do so in Jamaica as Palace Amusement closes the curtains on the New Kingston Drive-In which has been in operation since October 2020.
The final movie will be DC League of Super-Pets, starring Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, at 7:30 p.m. Speaking with The Sunday Gleaner, Marketing Manager for Palace Amusement, Melanie Graham, said that on Sunday she plans to attend the show to say her goodbyes to patrons at the venue.
“It is bittersweet,” said Graham. “I will be there to thank patrons for their support over the two years. The truth is, the drive-in was more like something we did in response to the pandemic because patrons would have nowhere else they could go, but once we reopened the indoor theatres, the attendance went,” she said.
According to the Graham, although the decline in patron support started with the reopening of the indoor theatres, it was not that people were not enjoying the drive-in experience. She said the decline in patron support also had to do with what people are currently looking for in their movie-watching experience in addition to external factors beyond their control.
“Drive-in theatres are not really for the future. People are now far more concerned with the quality of the picture and the sound and there is no way we can deliver that in that space. It is very difficult [and] the business has gone away from the outdoor stuff,” she explained.
“This is not to say we were not delivering a good product. It had nothing to do with the equipment, we had the best projector and lens, we had a good size and screen and there was the sound as well the radio aspect of it. But there is a lot of ambient noise and light coming from the cars, the security lights from the New Kingston Shopping Centre and then the moonlight that we of course could do nothing about. There was a lot of noise from the bar next door with which we shared a wall. On weekends they blast the music and then you know cars passing by with horns and so on,” she continued.
Fortunately, Graham says the staff employed at the New Kingston Drive-In will be absorbed into the other indoor venues once they are available to do so. Still, the company has incurred several losses as a result of keeping it running for so long even after patrons started showing up less.
“While we have not tallied up the total loss just yet, it is very obvious that we would have taken a hit because we still had to pay staff and cover the operational costs even when we would be seeing just six cars in a parking lot that should be able to hold 200,” she told The Sunday Gleaner.
Palace Amusement has four additional locations, namely Carib 5, Palace Cineplex, Palace Multiplex and Sunshine Palace which have begun to recover following closures and adjustments during the pandemic.
“We have seen a rebound so far and we are extremely hopeful that this will continue. We have some really good pictures coming including Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Avatar, so those should [be] good.
As for the future of Palace Amusement, Graham says it is too soon to think about that.
“During COVID we racked up a lot of losses, so for now we are simply just concentrating to pay off all of that,” Graham told The Sunday Gleaner.
EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version of this story named Three Thousand Years of Longing as the New Kingston Drive-In's final film. The final film is DC League of Super-Pets.