By Pete Zamplas
Brevard – “May the drive-in film force be with you — in May!”
That is an appropriate slogan for Brevard Music Center’s plans for an outdoor film series starting later this month with the Star Wars finale — launching once authorities allow such drive-in cinema.
BMC President and CEO Mark Weinstein said the eight-film series will “offer something for movie buffs of all ages — including iconic musicals and old classics, as well as family-friendly, adventure, and action films.”
During activity-constricting times, “it will also allow our community to come together to share entertainment — in their cars and with their families — in a safe and inspiring environment,” Weinstein said. “We know that all types of entertainment can soothe the soul. It is our hope that the Brevard Music Center @ The Drive-In Movies series will provide a welcome respite for music and movie lovers of all ages in our community and region.”
BMC box office manager Virginia Carter told The Tribune “the goal of these family-friendly events is to keep families together.” Drive-ins are scarce and maybe a novelty for younger patrons and for others a throwback to fond childhood memories.
BMC canceled this summer’s season and apprenticeships but is now uniquely utilizing its empty campus.
The Rise of Skywalker is slated to be the opener of the series. The hit at the end of this past year was the culmination of the fabled Star Wars series. Critics say it rated well with avid Star Wars fans for the action, characterization, cameos of early heroes, and how it wrapped up plot elements by the end.
BMC is at 349 Andante Lane, in Brevard. As many as 80 vehicles per film will be parked in the lot of the main Whittington-Pfohl Auditorium (WPA).
The series starts “once we get an all-clear, from the governor and local authorities,” Carter said. “Then we can schedule the series.”
The earliest opening is likely in late May. Gov. Roy Cooper targets May 8, expiration of his stay-at-home order, to start a two to three-week initial phase of eased social restrictions. Phase two starts after that, and BMC officials hope outdoor cinema gets a green light for that period and perhaps ahead of indoor cinemas due to greater fresh air circulation and less risk of COVID-19 contamination.
Showtimes will be 9 pm on weekends, and “we’re leaning to once per week,” Carter said. The 30-foot-wide viewing screen compares to a smaller screen of a multiplex cinema. It is six feet wider than the screen on the WPA amphitheater’s stage, for the once-per-summer combo of a movie and live music. The films were ET, West Side Story, then Raiders of the Lost Ark last summer.
The screen by the lot will be shielded by trees from any rainfall, Carter said. She said viewings will go on unless there is such severe weather as high wind or lightning.
The screen will go up just east of the large parking lot. Thus instead of facing ahead toward WPA, cars will instead face leftward toward the screen at the edge of woods, Carter noted.
Whereas viewings in WPA could use the amphitheater’s sound system, the screen by the parking lot looms as too remote. The plan is to transmit film sound over a specific FM radio frequency, to the moviegoer’s car radio or smartphone. Carter said a car’s “accessory mode” lower-power battery is ideal. Parked cars’ engines are to stay off unless needing to turn back on occasionally to sustain audio, she said. “We don’t want sound and fumes of 80 cars running, in this space.”
Candy, Popcorn Perks
Admission is simply $15 per carload of people. So far with no limit on the number of people in each vehicle, Carter said. “It’s very priced reasonably for families. We’re throwing in a bag of popcorn, and candy.” Ingles Markets, the series presenting sponsor, is providing candy. Historic Co-Ed Cinema in Brevard is making the popcorn.
Free initial candy and popcorn will be brought to patron cars by BMC staffers, and volunteers of that week’s sponsoring non-profit who will offer literature explaining their civic mission.
“Ingles is thrilled to be part of this fun and creative way to continue Brevard Music Center’s rich tradition of entertaining,” said Ingles Marketing Dir. Melissa Leavell.
PLATT is building the screen, and the Transylvania County Library Foundation is another lead sponsor. Sponsors for specific films include Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas.
Advanced Sales Only
Tickets will be sold only in advance and not at BMC, to “minimize physical interactions,” Carter said. Those interested can keep checking BMC’s website or Facebook page, to sign up for email updates then on a ticket waiting list.
The limit of 80 vehicles is to safely spread out occupants. “The actual configuration will vary by the sizes of vehicles” at each show. The ticket form includes type and size of vehicle.
Carter anticipates sanitary-promoting limits, such as “you can’t hang out in back of a (pickup) truck” and a “limit on how many can be in a bathroom at one time, and how many line up.”
Check brevardmusic.org or call 862-2130 for movie and ticket info, and to purchase tickets up to one hour before showtime.