The Mission Tiki Drive-In theater in Montclair provides people the enjoyment of watching a movie on the big screen from the comfort of their cars.
The theater, like drive-ins across the country, had been a quaint reminder of a bygone era. Then came the pandemic, and the closure of regular movie theaters. Now drive-ins like the Mission Tiki are back in vogue.
“There’s something about images projected on a giant screen and being among people, that makes the movie experience,” said Christian Gomez of Norwalk who was at the Mission Tiki on a recent Friday evening.
While many new releases have gone straight to streaming, many in the local community are clearly craving, well, community, when they watch movies.
It was 8:30 on a Friday night, and the drive-in was as packed as it could be – while still adhering to social distancing guidelines, of course.
One of the most consumer friendly policies about the Mission Tiki is that customers can bring their own food and non-alcoholic beverages to enjoy as they watch.
There is also a snack shack for those who wish to buy food on site.
The shack provides the typical movie night snacks like popcorn, and also serves more substantial food like pizza and burgers. Enhanced safety measures include a barrier that separates the cashier and the customer during the transaction, and everyone in the kitchen wears a mask.
When customers arrive at the drive-in, they are met by a masked employee, who gives a cheat sheet of the establishment’s COVID-safe policies.
Across the country there are 305 drive-ins, with 15 in California. Many that had been all but forgotten are also reporting a boom in business.
Everyone who attended on that recent Friday seemed to do their part to make sure that it was a safe experience for all.
The result is a movie theater experience that everyone needs during quarantine.
Gomez said he has been watching movies at the Mission Tiki Drive-In weekly for the last couple of months. His first experience with the drive-in was “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
“It blew me away,” Gomez said.
He said that before his first drive-in visit he had been using streaming services to entertain himself while stuck at home. But seeing “Mad Max: Fury Road” in the big screen from the comfort of his car was a game changer. He loved the atmosphere that the drive-in offered.
“You don’t get the oohs and ahhs, but you get the honking. It brings a sense of community,” Gomez said.
Courtney Grant, a first time drive-in attendee on that busy Friday, had been looking forward to this new experience. Despite this being her first time experience, her family owns a drive-in. “It’s a really nice way to engage in an activity like going to the movies and be safe,” Grant said.
She enjoyed her time at the drive-in and believed that the experience warranted a second.
Grant was not the only one. The drive-in had left others like Kenny Sunada, a satisfied patron, wanting more.
Sunada said he enjoyed his first visit and had a lot of fun. He said that he would prefer a drive-in rather than an indoor movie theater during these times of social distancing.
“It’s not the same movie experience, but it’s better than risking it,” Sunada said.
Ashley Douglas visited the drive-in for the second time in as many weeks.
“I kept thinking I wanted to go out to the movies, but the time to go out isn’t here yet,” said Douglas, a Los Angeles resident.
She had attended the week before to watch “Black Panther.”
Admission costs $10 for an adult and $1 for a child. The Mission Tiki offers viewers two different showtimes per night on four separate screens.
A customer’s admission fee will give them access to both movies being shown on the screen. Depending on the screen they pick, the two showings could be two different movies. However, patrons are free to leave after the first or come for only the second screening if they wish. There is also a midnight screening for night owls.
For schedule and more information, visit missiontiki.com.
Sebastian Ibarra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.