Plaza Atlanta takes big screen outdoors with pop-up, drive-in movies

Plaza Atlanta theater converts to pop-up drive-in style

Some of the major movie theater chains haven’t reopened yet, but an iconic Atlanta theater is taking the big screen outdoors.

Plaza Atlanta has been hosting a series of drive-in movies in the parking lot behind the theater.

Owner Christopher Escobar appeared on the Tamron Hall Show on Channel 2 last week to discuss the new, yet old-school approach.

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“A very throwback kind of way to watching movies. It’s contact-free drive-in. The contact-free part is the new spin on it," Escobar told Hall. "But the drive-in element is something that’s over 70 years old.”

Plaza Atlanta has been a city landmark for decades. The theater had to close its doors for the first time in 81 years in March when the pandemic hit.

But the age of social distancing has led to a resurgence for drive-in movie theaters. So when it came time to reopen, the Plaza decided to head outdoors.

“It’s been a ride. It’s almost movie level,” Escobar told Hall.

Christopher Escobar, owner of the Plaza Theatre, has opened two pop-up drive ins, including one in the Dad's Garage parking lot. This was shot on May 16, 2020. Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com
Christopher Escobar, owner of the Plaza Theatre, has opened two pop-up drive ins, including one in the Dad's Garage parking lot. This was shot on May 16, 2020. Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com (Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com)

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Screenings at the Plaza have been selling out in a matter of hours with movies like “Clue” and “Jurassic Park.” The Plaza recently partnered with Dad’s Garage to create a second pop-up location.

How does the drive-in system work? Escobar said tickets are sold online and each ticket is scanned through the cars’ glass windows. Each car is assigned a number, which corresponds to a specific spot in the lot.

“We use that both to make loading vehicles in easy and make sure sight lines are optimized,” he said. “We also use that for car-hop style food service.”

The theater and improv comedy club partnered with a few local restaurants to provide snacks for the food service.

“We have an incredible number of restaurants from Southern Belle, Righteous Room and Insomnia Cookies," Escobar told Hall. “They are using our number system as well. So you can go online to their sites or call them on the phone and place your order.”

Escobar also launched an online store and concessions to-go. He said people have been outpouring with support as well maintaining social distancing.

"It’s BYOQ: bring your own quarantine. We’ve been very lucky to have a positive response where people see we aren’t just trying to keep them safe. They really like we are looking out for the safety of our staff,” Escobar said.

The shows for Memorial Day weekend are sold out. But the Plaza is looking for more opportunities in the future.