The Hollywood Drive-In Theatre in College Hill was more than just a way for families to get out of the house during the pandemic. For local businesses in the neighborhood, it was a lifeline.
"Last year, we had to cancel all of our major events because of COVID, like everybody else,” said Seth Walsh, executive director of the College Hill Community Urban Development Corporation. “And so we were looking for something that could just bring the community back together as well as support the local businesses."
Walsh’s organization converted the facade of one of its Cedar Avenue properties into an outdoor movie screen. Cars pull into the parking lot, park six feet apart, where people could tailgate and catch a movie the old-fashioned way.
Walsh said the drive-in was only supposed to last one night but became so wildly popular that it extended all summer. Season two begins Memorial Day weekend.
“We have received multiple calls every day since then, including some of the snowiest days of the year,” Walsh said. “People just have been wanting to come back. I think it struck on something nostalgic. I think last year it created new memories.”
Besides striking a cord with the community last summer, the drive-in became the link some College Hill restaurants needed to survive the pandemic shut-down.
Red Rose Jems Pizzeria joined the rotating list of businesses staffing the “snack shack” at the drive-in, which provided movie-goers with food options.
"A lot of people would go and pick up dinner and have their family dinners in their car during the show,” said co-owner Sidney Mulford. “And it brought other people to the area, which was really good. It was enough to keep us going, so it just kind of helped us make it through."
The reach of the drive-in extended way beyond what Walsh expected. He said last year people from central Kentucky traveled all the way to College Hill to experience a night out at the movies, and the drive-in served about 3,000 guests in total. Now there are plans to repave the parking lot and make the theater into a permanent fixture in the neighborhood.
“We expected it to be a one-night-only experience, and now we're coming back for a second year,” Walsh said.
Because of limited space, people are encouraged to make a reservation ahead of time at Hollywood Drive-In Theatre's website, where there’s a full list of all the titles playing this summer. The cost is $25 per car with an unlimited number of passengers in each vehicle. Movie-goers should also plan on bringing a radio for listening.