PLYMOUTH, Ind. (CBS Local) — With most indoor theaters shut down to slow the spread of COVID-19, a cultural relic from the 20th century is poised for a major comeback in the era of social distancing.

Drive-in theaters, which combined America’s passion for automobiles and movies, peaked in popularity during the 1950s and early 1960s. Many closed down as more people chose to watch movies indoors or at home.

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More than 40,000 movie theater screens nationwide are now dark and Americans sheltering in place are turning to drive-ins for much-needed out-of-the-house entertainment.

There were 305 drive-in theaters with a total of 549 screens throughout the United States as of October, according to the United Drive-in Theater Owner Association.

Florida has seven drive-in movie theaters but the only one in South Florida is located at the Swap Shop in Fort Lauderdale. It has 9 screens.

While some drive-in theaters caught in the umbrella shutdown of non-essential services are still closed, including the Swap Shop drive-in, others are starting to reopen.


Tri-Way Drive-In Theatre in Plymouth, Indiana opened Friday, presenting a double-feature on two screens.

“I think everybody is ready to get out and see some entertainment, get out of the house, enjoy themselves and basically, you know, chill,” David Kinney, the theater’s owner and operator, told CBS affiliate WSBT. “But we’re here not only for their entertainment, but for their safety.”

But there are still some restrictions are in place due to the coronavirus. For example, only one car can park between poles.

“Patrons must stay in their vehicle except to go to the restroom or get concessions, and you must wear a face mask or covering over your mouth and nose for these purposes,” the theater wrote on its Facebook page.

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A limited number of people are allowed in the restrooms. Concessions may be ordered from a take out window as long as social distancing is maintained.