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Virginia Business Launches Socially Distant Mobile Drive-in Movies

“After the pandemic hit, everywhere that people used to go out and do alone or together got shut down overnight"


One Lynchburg-area business owner is looking for a new way to entertain people while still keeping them socially distant.

“We’ve done various events in the Lynchburg area in the last five years we’ve been open and the idea has been brewing for a while,” said Josh Davies, owner of Nomad Coffee Company. “After the pandemic hit, everywhere that people used to go out and do alone or together got shut down overnight.”

But drive-in movie theaters remained open. With the closest one in Lexington, Davies was motivated to start Nomad Movies, his own mobile drive-in theater, in the Lynchburg area.

After doing some research, Davies bought the required equipment, including a 33-foot screen, projectors and FM transmitters that allow sound from movies to be heard inside cars. He said getting the equipment was a waiting game because many churches had also been ordering FM transmitters to use for Sunday services.

The Nomad pop-up drive-in movie theater held a test run at the Lynchburg Humane Society the weekend of April 23 in the hopes of opening to the public in May at Mountain View Vintage Market in Bedford. Where it will be located remains to be seen. Davies needs to identify land that can accommodate about 50 cars, and, of course, the mobile theater. He has to set ticket prices, too.

All movies will be rated PG-13 and below, with many falling into the family-friendly category, said Davies, who also hopes to host themed nights.

“The plan is to do it as much as possible,” he said. “We have to figure out which venues would work, and some weekends will be private events and not open to the public. It’s been pleasantly overwhelming. We’ve had people this week reach out from other areas asking us to go to Bedford and Amherst, so we’re working on all those ideas and how we can partner with everyone and team together.”

Nomad Coffee will be on site selling coffee as well as other movie theater favorites, such as soda and candy, but Davies hopes to bring in other food vendors.

“I understand why there’s a risk for movie theaters to go under during this time because most movie theaters make money with concessions and break even with ticket sales,” he said. “The licenses to show a movie are so expensive and we’re trying to be as cost friendly as possible; but as a business in a pandemic, we’ve lost a lot of money and can’t afford to lose anymore, so we need to find happy medium.”

Julie Barger, director of development for the Lynchburg Humane Society, said the staff was excited Nomad chose its property to try out the new business this past weekend.

“It’s a great way for those that work so hard to support our pets to relax and enjoy a fun night out with each other and their families while still keeping safe and healthy,” she said.

After the social distancing guidelines are lifted, Davies plans to continue to movie nights but offer “picnic style” nights where viewers can get out of their cars and watch the movie on blankets, which would accommodate more people.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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