The Cinema of Horrors never actually showed movies. Its name comes from the old movie theater at Three Rivers Mall in Kelso where the walkthrough haunted house popped up each October for the past five years.
This season, after reinventing itself to comply with coronavirus safety precautions, Cinema of Horrors will be a bit truer to its name as it blends a drive-in-movie experience with haunted house thrills at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds.
“We had to come up with a last-minute pivot,” organizer Brandon Treadway said. “We noticed there were quite a few drive-in movie events that were going on throughout the Portland area. We wanted to add our little spin to it.”
A drive-in offers families and small groups the ability to stay separate in their own vehicles. Over the summer, several popped up around the Portland area and even in the Vancouver Mall parking lot.
Halloween space at the fairgrounds opened because ScareGrounds, also adapting to pandemic precautions, moved to Oaks Park in Portland to create a drive-in haunted house there.
Over the course of 14 nights beginning Friday, Cinema of Horrors will show a variety of creepy movies on a 40-by-22-foot inflatable screen, ranging from family-friendly “Hocus Pocus” (Oct. 22) to R-rated nail biters like “Get Out” (sold out for Oct. 17).
“With this, it’s … picking the right moments in the movie to intensify the scares,” said actor, casting coordinator, makeup artist and scare trainer Carlena McAllister, who has worked with The Cinema of Horrors for the past four years. “I’m excited for it because it’s something new.”
The Cinema of Horrors has strict guidelines in place for the haunted drive-in. If people roll down their windows, they must keep their masks on. Moviegoers are encouraged to bring their own drinks and snacks (no alcohol). Cinema of Horrors will sell some, too, although everything must be ordered online.
“Everyone will obviously social distanced,” Treadway said, adding that actors will be wearing medical masks underneath their costumes.
The Cinema of Horrors has figured out how to deploy the actors without distracting from the movies, he said. “We actually timed out quite a few of the scares for each of the movies so we know right when the scariest points are going to be and that’s when we’re going to have the majority of actors pop out and amplify the experience.”
Though many events have gone virtual this year, Treadway still believes people value a face-to-face experience. If ticket sales are any indication, he’s right about that. With space for 200 parked vehicles, many of the movies are already sold out. (Tickets are $59, but with fees and taxes, they come to $69.63.)
“People want to get out and do things that are safe to do,” he said. “The main goal of this event is to create a safe experience to help keep Halloween alive in 2020, in any way possible.”