After the true-life horror show of 2020, it’s a relief to watch make-believe scary stories playing out on the big screen, under the stars.
The Aut-O-Rama Twin Drive-in Theatre, 33395 Lorain Road, is showing back-to-back classic horror movies through Halloween in a perfect, COVID-proof setting. What could be better, and spookier, than sitting outside in the cool, October air under a Harvest Moon watching movies designed to scare the bejeezus out of you?
Keeping the family aspect of the theater in mind, one screen is playing movies for older fans while the other screen plays kid-friendly fare.
This Friday, Saturday and Sunday the theater is showing “Coco” and “Coraline” on the family screen and Stephen King’s “It” and “It, Chapter 2” on the other.
To keep the virus where it belongs, all tickets can be purchased at https://www.autoramadrivein.com/and should be bought early because they usually sell out.
Last weekend the marquee did not even list “Hocus Pocus,” “Casper, “Halloween” and “Halloween 2” but simply put up “Sold Out” signs Thursday.
While most indoor theaters are having trouble even staying open through the pandemic, Aut-O-Rama is having one of its best years ever.
“We are doing well, even though we’ve reduced the number of vehicles from 1,000 to 500, to allow maximum space between them so folks can enjoy the movie without worry,” said co-owner Del Sherman. “To make it even easier, we now allow people to bring in their own food and drinks so there are no long lines at the concession stands.”
Sherman said the concession stand will be open with the full menu including pizzas, burgers, hot dogs, candy and, of course, popcorn, but it has been modified for faster service.
“We don’t want people to have to stand in line longer than necessary, so our workers will take orders, put the food and drinks together and hand them over to the customers,” he said. “This way, people will be able to get in and out very quickly.”
He said they tried delivering the food directly to the cars, but that plan didn’t last..
“It was a nice idea, but it didn’t work,” he said. “It was hard to find the cars and the pizzas got cold. Easier to do it this way.”
He said other drive-ins, depending on their locations, are also doing great business this year.
“This is not something we want to last,” he said. “Everyone wants things to get back to normal. We need regular theaters to be open to allow Hollywood to go back to making big-budget films. It’s not worth it to make a big film that will only play in a few theaters. Indoor theaters have it hard staying open because showing the classic movies barely brings in enough people to pay for lights, heat and air conditioning.”
But drive-in theaters are seemingly custom-made to provide entertainment during the COVID-19 crisis.
“We’re seeing a lot of our old friends, but we’re also seeing many new faces,” said Del’s brother, Tim. “They have come back to see what the drive-in is all about and we hope they enjoyed themselves enough to return after the COVID is gone.”
Attendance is going so well, the Shermans are going to try to stay open much later this year.
“We are playing it by ear after Halloween,” Del said. “We think we can stay open through November and maybe stretch it out to Christmas. Since our season started late, it seems fair we should go longer.”
And while the COVID crisis hurts, it has allowed the drive-in to branch out with private events, including high school graduations, corporate parties and live comedians.
This weekend the drive-in will go to the dogs, literally.
“That weekend people pay the usual $10 entrance fee, but they can bring their dogs for another $5,” said Tim Sherman. “The $5 fees all go to the Multiple Breed Rescue of Grafton. We usually hold more events like this to help rescues, but this year we were limited.”
They are also experimenting with nationally known comedians performing in front of the giant screen. The act is transmitted over the car radio and the performer is projected onto the street.
The first is Nate Bargatze on Thursday at 6:30 and 9 p.m.
Next is Ber Kreischer’s Hot Summer Nights shows Oct. 22 at 7:30 and 10:30 p.m..
UPCOMING MOVIES AT THE AUT-O-RAMA
Oct. 16, 17 and 18: “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” and “The Addams Family” on all screens.
Oct. 23 and 24: “Hotel Transylvania,” “Hocus Pocus” “Scooby Doo,” “Goosebumps” on the family screen. “Killer Klowns from Outer Space,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” “House of 1,000 Corpses'' and “Motel Hell” on the adult screens.
Oct. 30, 31 and Nov. 1: Family screen: To be announced. “Halloween” and “Halloween II” on the adult screen. (These movie listings are tentative. Check the drive in’s website.)