Angry creatures with big teeth proved a winning combination for the Aut-O-Rama Twin Drive-In Theatre on Lorain Road.
Co-owner Deb Sherman said media reports of the drive-in being the fifth-highest grossing theater in the country the weekend of June 19 were “a little bit exaggerated.”
The drive-in, one of only approximately 310 left in the U.S., finished in the No. 8 spot for that stretch of time, she said.
"Jaws," released in 1975, and "Jurassic Park," released in 1993, were on the drive-in's Screen 1 that weekend.
Rankings come from Comscore, a national media firm supplying moviemakers with box office earnings. Every theater or drive-in in the country reports their ticket sales to Comscore daily, Sherman said.
“Hollywood wants to know right away how a film is doing,” she said.
The adult thrillers were one of two double features on the bill June 19. Screen 2 had two animated films, “Shrek” and “Despicable Me.” The drive-in is operating at half capacity because of social distancing rules. “Despicable Me,” originally released in 2010, was the newest of the four films screened. The drive-in grossed approximately $30,000 for the weekend despite those seeming obstacles, Sherman said.
“This is the first time drive-ins have been significant in a long time,” she said.
A sellout for the Aut-O-Rama currently is 550 cars. The drive-in’s normal capacity is 1,000.
Gov. Mike DeWine allowed Ohio indoor theaters to reopen June 10 after months of forced closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. Sherman said drive-ins still are doing a brisk business because people are eager to get outdoors after months of staying home. She believes people may feel safer at drive-ins, which were able to reopen first.
DeWine allowed drive-ins to open May 12, with some restrictions. Patrons must stay in their cars except to use restrooms or visit concession stands. Social distancing is required even though customers enjoy films while in their vehicles.
The Aut-O-Rama concession stand remained closed when the North Ridgeville drive-in initially reopened, Sherman said. The stand is now open with modifications. Patrons enter through a single door and remain in one line while employees hand them their food and drinks. Customers then exit through another door.
Aut-O-Rama restrooms remain closed, but Sherman said portable facilities are in place.
Sherman isn’t sure how long drive-ins can ride the current wave of increased popularity resulting from the pandemic. She hopes the wave lasts at least long enough for the Aut-O-Rama to begin showing major new movies. The drive-in featured what was billed “A Week of Wizarding “ last weekend. With double features showing each night on the drive-in’s first screen, the event featured all eight Harry Potter movies and the two related “Fantastic Beast” films.
The drive-in’s first new release of the season, “My Spy,” featuring Dave Bautista, the former pro wrestler-turned actor in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” films, took over the drive-in’s second screen for a two-week run that began Friday. It is paired with a slightly older film, “Knives Out,” released in November.
“It looks like a cute film,” Sherman said of “My Spy,” before it opened at the Aut-O-Rama. Sherman is more excited about the arrival of Disney’s live-action “Mulan” on July 24. “Tenet,” a highly anticipated film from director Christopher Nolan (“Batman Begins” and its two sequels) arrives July 31. Sherman described the movie as a sequel to Nolan’s “Inception.”
Two of Sherman’s children live in North Ridgeville and help operate the drive-in.
The Aut-O-Rama hosted about a half dozen graduation events for local high schools in the past month or so. The final event celebrated Westlake High School graduates on June 24. Sherman said the drive-in charged the schools only enough to break even.
“We were glad to do it,” she said. “I feel sorry for these kids. The class of 2020 has missed out on so much.”
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