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Coming Attractions: Pop-Up Drive-In Movies Planned for Chippewa Valley

Tom Giffey

A drive-in theater in Concord, California. (Photo by Thomas Hawk | CC-BY-NC 2.0)
A drive-in theater in Concord, California. (Photo by Thomas Hawk | CC-BY-NC 2.0)

Do you miss going out to the movies? Are Netflix and Hulu not fulfilling your big-screen fix? Then it may be time for a drive-in movie right here in the Chippewa Valley.

Several local event promoters announced Friday, May 15, that they are bringing pop-up drive-in movies to the Northern Wisconsin State Fairgrounds and other regional site starting as early as next week. Using portable screens courtesy of Eau Claire’s Micon Cinemas and FM transmitters that will carry sound into your vehicle, organizers say the pop-up drive-ins will “be a welcome change to your recent entertainment routine.”

Flicks shown at the Northern Wisconsin State Fairgrounds in Chippewa Falls will be projected on a 40-foot screen that will stand on the covered stage, said Brian Sandy of Alpha Marketing and Events, one of the organizers. The fairgrounds will be able to accommodate about 135 vehicles, he said. At sites in other local cities – which will be announced in the coming days, pending approval – movies will be shown on smaller digital screens.

While drive-in movies may be a throwback to an earlier era, promoters say they will follow up-to-the-minute public health rules because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Organizers are working with Micon Cinemas to get permission to screen first-run films, Sandy said.

“Normally (film studios) would not allow a new release in a situation like this, but they may be more lenient because of the virus,” he said. If showing first-run movies isn’t possible, however, older films will be screened.

While drive-in movies may be a throwback to an earlier era, promoters say they will follow up-to-the-minute public health rules because of the coronavirus pandemic. “Because of the current environment, guidelines for the events are being established as each event opens,” they wrote in a press release. “We are looking at the most current guidelines set by local health departments. As guidelines change, the event may change with them.”

Movie theaters in Wisconsin have been closed since mid-March, when Gov. Tony Evers issued his first “Safer at Home” order, which was intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus. On May 11, Evers said drive-in theaters would be allowed to open with some restrictions, but two days later the state Supreme Court threw out the entirety of the “Safer at Home” order. Since then, several counties – including Eau Claire and Dunn – have enacted public health orders mandating physical distancing and other regulations for businesses and gatherings.

In light of COVID-19, drive-in movies have been popping up elsewhere in Wisconsin, with screenings planned at ballparks in Madison and the Milwaukee suburb of Franklin.

The Chippewa Valley drive-in’s organizers – Wilkes Group, Alpha Marketing and Events, and M3 Sound & Stage – say tickets will be available online at cvdrivein.com beginning on Monday, May 18. (As of Friday, the website and an accompanying Facebook page weren’t yet available.) A limited number of tickets will be available for $7 each (or $4 for children 12 and under). Concessions will also be available on-site: Patrons will be able to order them online, and they will be be delivered directly to cars. On movie nights, gates will open at 8pm nightly, with movies starting at 8:45.

According to a press release, “Organizers are putting the final touches on the events, and tickets, information, menus, and locations can be found on the events website at www.cvdrivein.com starting on Monday, May 18.”