Jesse and Johanna Miller have loved taking their kids to watch summer movies on big inflatable screens in Vancouver city parks.
“Of course they had to cancel that this summer,” said Jesse Miller, a software developer for Banfield Pet Hospital. “We love going to movies, and when the pandemic began, we thought, ‘What about a drive-in?’ ”
The nearest drive-in theater Miller could locate is in Newberg, Ore. So he and his wife dreamed up a temporary one right here in their hometown.
“We started putting out feelers to the city and different places where we might want to try this,” he said. He was surprised to find that it wasn’t difficult to line up the permissions needed to launch Pop Up Cinema in the big parking lot at the Vancouver Mall.
“We saw the opportunity, and everything just seemed to flow,” Miller said. At first, there was some question whether movie theaters would preempt Pop Up Cinema by reopening earlier this summer — but once that possibility vanished, Miller got a thumbs-up from mall managers to use their real estate. They called him on a Monday, and he was ready to go that Saturday, he said.
“We put it together real quick,” with help from a film distribution company that was glad to have a real event to work with, Miller said.
Pop Up Cinema launched in July. “We really just wanted to have something families could do,” Miller said. “Come out of lockdown and enjoy a movie, while still behaving.”
The price so far has been $20 per car; Miller said that may change. No walk-ins are allowed. Miller said he’s got a double-projector system for a good image on his 35-foot screen. Sound comes via your FM radio.
The site is the northeast mall parking lot between J.C. Penney and Jimmy John’s. Onsite concessions are available but people must wear masks and observe the usual rules about physical distancing while lining up, Miller said.
This Friday and Saturday, Pop Up Cinema will open to drive-in patrons at around 8 p.m. and movies will begin at around 9 p.m. The original “Raiders of the Lost Ark” screens on Friday and “Shrek 3” screens on Saturday, Miller said. (Pop Up Cinema has done some Thursdays, he said, but he found those “lower attendance and higher stress,” he said.) Miller said he’s trying to stick with films rated G and PG.
Pop Up Cinema will continue on Fridays and Saturdays at Vancouver Mall until the rainy season begins or movie theaters reopen, whichever comes first.