With built-in social distancing, North Carolina drive-in movie theaters see business boom amid COVID-19 pandemic

HENDERSON (WTVD) -- Amid the coronavirus pandemic, more than 300 drive in theaters nationwide are seeing an uptick in business, including the popular Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre in Henderson that has been in business since 1949.

"It's been through a couple of wars and it's been through some economic ups and downs," said Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre owner Mark Frank. "But, the pandemic would be the first for this one. But, it has stood the test the test of time," Frank said.

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Frank has owned the outdoor theatre for nine years but has been in the drive-in industry for twelve years. Frank said he has a lot of regular customers at his theater but the pandemic has brought out many new faces to his business.

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"A lot of customers that I'm seeing are saying, 'We have always wanted to make it out. Now, we have the time to,'" Frank said.

Drive-in theaters have always been naturally designed for social distancing with cars pulling in to listen to the flick on their car radio. Frank said at his theater, customers can order food from their phones and pick up at the window with plenty of room for spacing out customers.

"This is social distancing since 1933 when the first one was built," Frank said. "So, the idea is, you pull in, you sit in your car, you watch a movie and you go home. So, that already just lends itself to it and that's how they've been doing it for 80, almost 90 or 80 years," Frank said.

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Frank said many customers show up early to throw a frisbee or just enjoy being outside before the movie begins. Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre is open seven nights a week June, July and August. It hosts concerts and church services.

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