‘Grease’ kicks off Madrid summer nights at socially distanced drive-in cinema

May 29, 2020 - 10:30 AM
People attend a screening of the film "Grease" during the reopening of the Autocine Madrid Race drive-in cinema, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Madrid, Spain, May 27, 2020. (Reuters/Sergio Perez)

MADRID — The next best thing to sitting in a darkened movie theatre? A drive-in cinema in the Spanish capital launched its post-lockdown summer season on Wednesday with a blast of escapism in the form of the 1978 musical “Grease”.

Conventional theaters and most other forms of indoor entertainment remain closed as Spain, one of the world’s hardest-hit countries, gradually lifts coronavirus restrictions.

But the Autocine Race drive-in, where movie-goers stay safely ensconced in their cars, has got the green light to reopen.

“Drive-in cinemas were tailor made for this kind of virus,” co-founder Cristina Portas told Reuters.

Even so, the cinema has reduced capacity to 100 cars and introduced social distancing measures.

“We deliver food to your car so you don’t have to get out of your vehicle,” Portas said.

Drive-in movie theaters are seeing a revival in other parts of the world as the leisure industry figures out how to deal with the constraints of pandemic, popping up for example in Lithuania, Dubai, the United States and Cannes in France.

At Madrid’s Autocine, ushers in high-visibility jackets and face protectors guided cars to neatly marked out spaces, ensuring safe distancing.

As the sun set over the city, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John danced across the big screen, with two 1950’s cars on display beneath it, transporting spectators back to the American high-school life of that period, far away from concerns of the pandemic.

A white-masked movie-goer who gave her name only as Belen, explained the appeal from the passenger seat.

“It’s a very safe form of entertainment for the situation we are living through … It’s a lot of fun and they show great movies.” —Reporting by Sergio Perez Writing by Nathan Allen Editing by Andrei Khalip and Frances Kerry