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After 20 years, a temporary drive-in theater returns

Allen Theaters to run a lineup each night
Allen Theaters plans to begin offering a temporary drive-in theater for the next 2½ weeks at McGee Park in Farmington. Movies begin Friday with a double feature showing of “Jurassic World” and “Superbad.”

FARMINGTON – Movie-lovers, grab those blankets and snacks, because a drive-in theater is returning to Farmington on Friday, with a heavy dose of nostalgia and social distancing.

Allen Theaters is bringing a temporary screen to McGee Park and is planning to run a lineup everyday for the next 2½ weeks, said Russell Allen, vice president of operations at the company.

Tickets, at $20 per car, will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis for the first 75 cars with gates opening at 7:30 p.m.

Fridays and Saturdays will typically have a double-feature, with the first showing starting at dusk, followed by a 15 minute intermission and a second movie. Allen said the movie lineup will be posted on the theater’s Facebook page. The drive-in will kick off Friday with “Jurassic World” and “Superbad.”

Allen anticipates the showings will be a success with people eager for entertainment amid all of the closures.

“Honestly, no one from Durango will be able to get in unless they show up four hours early,” he said with a laugh.

There will be a temporary snack bar in the park, complete with the aroma of popping fresh, buttery popcorn. Allen said San Juan County is in talks to get a couple local food trucks to park nearby. Primal Swine will be there Friday night, according to the county.

“I can’t do a proper snack bar out there, and I’m in a much better place (financially) so I encouraged the county to get some food trucks out there,” he said.

The 40-foot-wide and 17-foot-tall screen took about three days to set up and will be able to continue showing movies even during rainstorms, Allen said.

It’s not the first time Allen Theaters has operated a drive-in theater in Farmington. The town previously had two theaters, a single-screen drive-in on Main Street and a twin-screen on Apache Drive.

“They opened right after World War II,” Allen said.

The Main Street theater closed in the late 1980s or early ’90s, while the Apache theater continued to operate until 2000, when it was eventually transformed into the Walmart on the west side of Farmington.

The decision to open temporary drive-in theaters in both Farmington and Las Cruces, New Mexico, comes as the movie theater industry struggles to survive the coronavirus closures and film studios release movies direct to viewers.

On Wednesday, AMC – the largest U.S. chain – announced if it is not allowed to open this summer, it might not have enough money to survive.

“This has not been a good thing in our world,” Allen said of the coronavirus pandemic’s effect on the industry.

Allen Theaters, which operates 17 facilities in 13 towns, including Durango, Farmington and Cortez, has been closed since mid-March, but Allen said they are anticipating a July 1 reopening, dependent on public health orders. He acknowledged the company has lost a lot of revenue because of the closures but said, “I prefer not to say how much.”

Despite interest from San Juan County, New Mexico, in continuing the temporary drive-in, Allen said it most likely won’t last longer than originally planned.

“These drive-ins have a place in nostalgia, but they don’t really have a place in the financial world,” he said.

lweber@durangoherald.com

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