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Family-owned Gatesville drive-in theater sees renaissance from COVID-`19

Posted at 8:04 PM, Dec 24, 2020
and last updated 2021-01-01 16:08:34-05

GATESVILLE, TX — When COVID-19 hit, people were forced to watch movies at home, leaving theaters empty and hurting. However, amid the pandemic and an awareness for social distancing, an old concept has gained new popularity.

As the only socially-distanced movie venue between the Dallas and Austin suburbs, Gatesville's "Last Drive-In Picture Show" has enjoyed new audiences, as folks like Sheila Anderson rediscover the fun of movies from your truck or car.

"This is has more of a small town feel," said the Waco woman.

Now this small town movie venue gets new customers rediscovering the wonder, comfort and safety of the drive-in movie, every night.

This family-run operation isn't the only one seeing a renaissance.

"But now it's been more pretty steady a lot more people. Instead of getting two or three cars during the week it's been almost 20 to 30 sometimes," said Dana Palmer, who runs admissions to the drive-in.

Not only does the Last Picture Show have a drive-in, there's also an indoor cinema connected.

Not only are other drive in's finding new customers, they're finding new uses too. Outside Nashville, Keith Urban took to the Stardust Drive-In to stage a concert for cars under the stars.

Down in Buda, outside Austin, there's another twist on the drive-in venue. Bri and Lindsay tied the knot with onlookers in cars and on the web.

Where drive-ins don't exist anymore, people create them. In Pensacola, Spring Break promoter Michael Silver managed to turn a fairground into a socially-distanced entertainment venue, and copped some quick cash.

"We sold out our first week of showings in advance. That was 12 shows in my career of promoting. I'd never sold out 12 shows in advance or at all," he said. And

Carrie Schnepf of Queen Creek, Arizona opened up her land as a drive-in and started raking it in.

"We have a large open field out here, about 40 acres... we needed something to do with it," she said.

But few, if any drive-ins, have held up as well as Gatesville's Last Drive-In Picture Show, named after the iconic movie about growing up in a small Texas town.

The Palmer family hopes we'll all come join them some night for a double feature, a taste of the past with the safety of distance needed today.