MIDDLE POINT — Van Del Drive-in Theater will be one of several across the country streaming an exclusive Blake Shelton, Gwen Stefani and Trace Adkins concert this weekend.
The concert is in partnership with Encore Drive-in Nights, a new one-night-only concert feature pre-recorded exclusively for drive-in theaters. It is also slated at Kenton’s Hi-Road Drive-in and Sidney’s Auto Vue Drive-in Saturday.
“They’re not allowing anybody in stadiums or people to be close in indoor theaters whereas drive-ins are kind of designed for social distancing before we thought social distancing was a need,” said co-owner Donna Saunders. “Because of that, we’ve been having lots of people come wanting to do concerts both live and pre-recorded and done all sorts of stuff.”
Saunders and her husband, Rod, purchased Van Del in June. They also own Field of Dreams Drive-in Theater in Liberty Center and the Tiffin Drive-in. However, their previous ownership hadn’t prepared them for a COVID summer. In fact, they had tried concert showings at their previous locations and weren’t all that successful.
“The concerts with Encore Live were started because of COVID, so we’re all still seeing how this works,” Rod Saunders explained. “We’re not concert promoters, so it’s been interesting and frustrating but hopefully people are having a good time and it’s rewarding.”
Despite being one of the few entertainment options, drive-ins are still struggling due to the halt on Hollywood movie releases. With new movies not being released, the Van Del owners and other drive-ins have opted for showing classic movies.
“Our primary goal is to entertain people, but COVID has been an issue for us even to get movies. We haven’t had any new products to show all summer,” Donna Saunders said. “We’re showing retro movies, older movies from the spring — anything we can get our hands on. Concerts were just something else we could do to continue to entertain people and give them some interesting content without those brand new movies people are drawn in to see.”
They are also using the time as an opportunity to do an update with one of the three screens which, perhaps conveniently, got partially torn down in a wind storm last week.
“We’ve only been using two of the three screens this year so far because there’s no new content so to put old stuff on three screens financially with licensing fees, it’s too expensive,” Donna Saunders said. “The other thing is as new owners, we aren’t thrilled with the location of the one that blew down because of how close it is to the road. it could be a potential distraction for drivers, so we have a new location on the property we’d like to move it to.”
Coming soon to Van Del Drive-in are “Despicable Me” with “Minions” and “The Rental” with “The Big Ugly” July 24, “Grease” with “Dirty Dancing” July 31, “Mulan” Aug. 21 and the Ultimate McCartney Experience Live Aug. 22. For more information on weekly showings, visit www.van-del.com.
Reach Tara Jones at 567-242-0511.