Gardena Cinema hosts drive-in movie showings

Lizzy Oliver, Maria Pasciuto, and Akash Sethi make a comfortable layout for their drive-in cinema experience at the parking lot of the Gardena Cinema. They attended the drive-in on Aug. 28, in which the film ‘Jaws’ was played.

By Ronald Penh

For the cinema enthusiasts that miss watching films at the movie theater, you can recreate that experience here in Gardena on Friday and Saturday nights. The LA Arts Society in collaboration with the Gardena Cinema has set up a Pop-Up Drive-In at the parking lot of the Gardena Cinema in an effort to publicly screen films during this COVID-19 pandemic.

In what founding director of the LA Arts Society Alex Martinez calls a “COVID solution,” the drive-in aims to bring people together through art. 

“We want to continue exhibiting movies,” Martinez said. “We want to continue to give people something to do in the community, get the families out. There’s a lot of worries out in the world and if we can provide a little bit of entertainment and a little bit of something to do for at least two hours at a time, get your mind off of all that stuff, that’s what we’re here to do.”

The drive-in had its first screening on Aug. 10 which played Pee Wee’s big adventure and sold out tickets. Throughout the rest of the month, movies that were played include ‘Jurassic Park,’ ‘Starship Troopers,’ and ‘Jaws.’

The drive-in charges a total of $20 per vehicle for entry. The lobby is open indoors with snacks such as packaged chips, candy, popcorn, and nachos available. A public restroom is also available.

The drive-in cinema came about when Martinez got in touch with the Gardena Cinema’s manager, Judy Kim, and discussed the idea of hosting a pop-up drive-in at their venue.

“He had contacted me probably a few months after COVID, and asked me how I was doing, and he suggested that we do a pop-up drive-in cinema in our parking lot,” Kim said. “I said, ‘Okay,  I’m open to that, you know, if that will help generate some revenue for us so we can pay our mortgage.’”

The Gardena Cinema is a classic, single theater venue, in which their revenue stream normally goes through ups and downs. When COVID-19 hit, the theater had to shut down, eliminating any possibility to create a profit. The drive-in cinema, at least, brings in some revenue to help out the local theater.

The social distancing regulations put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic has put a halt to common social events such as attending the movie theater. The drive-in cinema creates a sense of nostalgia for those who haven’t seen a movie in a communal setting in a while, Kim said.

“A lot of people who come, they haven’t been in a movie theater in like five, six months, and they get very emotional they’re like, ‘Oh my God, I haven’t been in a movie theater in so long,’” Kim shared.

Taylor Mendonca and Lizzie Whitaker came from the downtown LA area to attend Gardena’s drive-in cinema on the screening of Jaws on Saturday, Aug. 28.

“We’ve been looking for drive-ins but they’re all really expensive in LA,” Whitaker said. 

“I think it’s great because it’s an independent cinema and they’ve been hit really hard by COVID, so I think it’s fantastic that they’re able to have the space to do this and get some support,” Mendonca said. “Hopefully they can get through it without having to shut down.”

“We definitely want to support local cinemas,” Whitaker added.

Guests are allowed to sit in their truck beds, as long as face masks are worn. The event is pet-friendly, you can bring food and snacks, and you will need an FM radio to play the audio. Cars are parked on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The drive-in cinema will play ‘Back to the Future’ on Friday Sept. 4, Saturday Sept. 5, and Monday Sept. 7 at 8 p.m. Stay up to date by following @GardenaCinema on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and @LAArtsSociety on Facebook and Instagram.

For those with questions, you can contact Alex Martinez at 310-435-3941 or the Gardena Cinema at 310-217-0505.