LOOK: First PH drive-in theater in Pampanga set to open amid pandemic

Mario Dumaual, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 29 2020 07:02 PM | Updated as of Jul 30 2020 12:34 AM

MANILA -- Four months after the nationwide closure of theaters, Philippine cinema operators are gearing for the new normal in movie viewing via drive-in cinemas.

The SM Cinema chain on Tuesday showed the first images of The Cinema Drive-In at the Amphitheater of SM City Pampanga, which will open on Friday, July 31, with the showing of the long-awaited horror movie from South Korea, "Train 2 Busan: Peninsula." 

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The movie industry is elated that the drive-in cinema project was finally given the go-signal by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), which initially rejected it last May. 

The first of several drive-in cinemas to open in the Philippines, the San Fernando, Pampanqa venue covers 8,000 sq.m. According to SM Cinema official Chad Caluyo, it can accommodate a total of 87 cars per screening. 

To enforce social distancing, a minimum of 2 persons and maximum of 4 will be allowed for each vehicle. Tickets which should be reserved online through www.smtickets.com are pegged at P400 per head, inclusive of popcorn, beef franks and water.

More than the physical transformation of cinema from its traditional enclosed form, the switch to drive-in cinemas is part of efforts of the movie industry to stay relevant in mass entertainment threatened to extinction by quarantine restrictions due to the pandemic. Other drive-in cinema sites are being planned in Pasay and Makati with the conversion of empty lots and parking spaces. 

Officials of the the Cinema Exhibitors of the Philippines (CEAP) also hope to screen local movies at drive-in cinemas to restart the industry. 

"We know that this will not bring in a lot of money -- yet -- but we have to reboot the movie-viewing experience," a CEAP insider told ABS-CBN News. 

The CEAP, which comprises the theater chains of Ayala, Robinsons, SM, Megaworld, and Villar among others, has yet to finalize the reopening of over 1,000 theaters nationwide, hopefully by October, depending on the flattening of the pandemic curve. 

The SM Cinema Drive-in will be open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays with two screenings per night at 5:30 p.m. and 8:30
p.m. Other films to be screened are "Sea Monsters" on July 31 and "My Spy" on August 1.

Patrons will have to make a technical adjustment in movie viewing -- quite a leap from beginnings of drive-in cinemas in the pre-war era. They have to turn on their car’s FM radio to a specific frequency to broadcast the sound straight into their vehicles. Guests may also bring their own radio and other devices with FM capabilities.