The retailer says cars will be socially distanced for the free events.
With the pandemic putting drive-ins back in the spotlight, Walmart is capitalizing on the nostalgic craze by turning 160 of its store parking lots into outdoor theaters, including 14 in North Texas.
Tickets for the free events could be reserved starting at 4 p.m. Wednesday and were completely claimed across the U.S. by Thursday morning. Those that grabbed tickets can cancel ahead of time, meaning there’s still a chance to score tickets.
Stores throughout the region are among the retailer’s locations taking advantage of the hole left by classic theaters, which closed in mid-March. While some have opened with increased cleaning practices, not all moviegoers feel safe yet sitting in close quarters with strangers for two hours.
Walmart’s movie tour, which launches nationally Aug. 14 and runs through Oct. 21, debuts locally in Prosper at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 14. (See the full list of local showings below or by visiting thewalmartdrivein.com.)
In all, Walmart plans 320 free showings of family-friendly movies, including Ghostbusters, The Wizard of Oz, Black Panther, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Friday Night Lights. Actress Drew Barrymore will serve as a host for each event — either virtually or in-person at one surprise location.
Store parking spaces will act as movie theater seats for cars and will be socially distanced, allowing attendees to keep their distance in a way regular theaters can’t. Each car requires one ticket, reserved in advance, and it must have access to FM radio to hear the audio. Cars will be parked randomly or based on size.
Here are dates and locations in Dallas-Fort Worth (all showings start at 7:30 p.m.):
- Aug. 14-15: Prosper, 500 Richland Blvd.
- Aug. 18-19: Plano, 425 Coit Road.
- Aug. 21-22: The Colony, 4691 State Highway 121.
- Aug. 25-26: Frisco, 355 Stonebrook Pkwy.
- Sept. 1-2: Roanoke, 1228 N. US Highway 377.
- Sept. 4-5: Bedford, 4101 State Highway 121.
- Sept. 8-9: Grand Prairie, 2225 W. Interstate 20.
- Oct. 2-3: McKinney, 2041 Redbud Blvd.
- Oct. 6-7: Irving, 1635 Market Place Blvd.
- Oct. 9-10: Irving, 4100 W. Airport Freeway.
- Oct. 9-10: Rockwall, E. Interstate 30.
- Oct. 13-14: Denton, 2750 W University Dr.
- Oct. 13-14: Wylie, 2050 TX-78.
- Oct. 20-21: Murphy, 115 W. FM 544.
One part of the classic movie experience that might be missing? Popcorn. Walmart is recommending that attendees bring their own snacks.
The films were selected by New York-based Tribeca Enterprises, a multi-platform storytelling company established in 2003 by Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal. It runs the Tribeca Film Festival and Tribeca Studios.
Tribeca is also providing special film industry guests for the showings, including Barrymore, Friday Night Lights director Peter Berg, Alias actress Jennifer Garner, Los Angeles Laker LeBron James and This Is Us actress Chrissy Metz. They will appear in person at one location and virtually for the others.
There are only about 325 drive-in theaters operating today, including 20 in Texas — a far cry from their peak in the 1950s when there were over 4,000 locations. In North Texas, drive-ins in Dallas, Fort Worth and Ennis have reported sold-out showings, and a pop-up outdoor theater recently opened in Richardson. Fun Movie Grill in Irving also has turned its parking lot into a drive-in.
Movie theaters are under pressure to reopen after having virtually zero revenue for four months.
Plano-based Cinemark, the third-largest theater company with 555 locations in the U.S. and Latin America, first experimented with reopenings in June at select cinemas in North Texas. It’s now moving forward and plans to open the remainder of its theaters by the end of August.
Film distributors have been proactive in the past week, making bold moves to adapt to the pandemic-related shift to viewing movies online from the safety of home.
Disney plans to launch its highly anticipated live-action remake of Mulan, originally set to open in theaters in July, simultaneously in theaters and on its new Disney Plus streaming platform on Sept. 4. In addition, Universal and AMC came to an agreement about reducing how long films must play in theaters before being released for online viewing.