Columbia's first drive-in theater to 'pop-up' this summer

Drive-in movies have long been considered a quintessential American pastime. This summer, prepare for a surge of nostalgia with the opening of Columbia’s own pop-up, drive-in movie theater.

The Summer Drive-In Series was the most recent project selection from What’s Next Midlands, a community-oriented organization that promotes social innovation in South Carolina.

“Our goal at What's Next Midlands is to improve livability in the Midlands by bringing the ideas of community members to life,” Laura Ros, project manager at What’s Next Midlands, said.

There are only three other drive-in theaters in South Carolina, and the closest is about an hour away. The Summer Drive-In Series places a theater at the Historic Columbia Speedway in Cayce, a short drive from downtown Columbia.

On March 22, a committee of social investors selected the drive-in theater as the official project. Other proposals included a bicycle drive, a Gervais Street trolley and a pet-friendly business campaign. Although the decision was made last month, the idea for a drive-in movie theater was submitted last October.

“Several drive-in movie suggestions have been submitted to the What's Next Midlands website. One submission specifically said 'What if Cayce Speedway became a drive-in movie theatre?' The pop-up drive-in movie series was inspired from this idea,” Ros said. 

The Summer Drive-In Series is a partnership between What’s Next Midlands and John Banks, manager of the Historic Columbia Speedway and owner of the movie screening service Fun Flicks. The project will launch on May 20 with a screening of “The Sandlot.” In addition, baseball-themed concessions such as hotdogs, popcorn and shaved ice will be sold at the showing.

“A pop-up drive-in movie series will help create a welcoming community by offering a social and cultural gathering for families at an affordable price,” Ros said.

The drive-in will be similar to a traditional drive-in movie experience. Guests can view the films from the comfort of their car and listen in on the car radio.

“We hope to layer additional experiences that will fit with the movie's theme, so that guests can enjoy interactive activities before the sun sets and the films begin,” Ros said.

Ros additionally emphasized the community involvement in What’s Next Midlands. Locals are encouraged to submit their project ideas online, and have the opportunity to volunteer at the upcoming drive-in project. Individuals interested in volunteering can get more information online from Columbia Opportunity Resource.

The dates for the theater showings are May 20, June 27 and Aug. 12, and admission is $20 per vehicle. What’s Next Midlands is actively seeking ideas for their next project and is accepting submissions online.

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