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Walmart parking lots to double as drive-in theaters as fans wait for movie chains to reopen

By Benjamin Bullard
Joker showing at a drive in movie theater

If you can’t go to the actual movie theaters these days and remember what it's like to plop yourself down in a seat with a bucket of popcorn while waiting for the lights to dim, at least there’s a new socially distanced option for getting your film fix. A new drive-in movie agreement is bringing the big-screen experience to one of the most ubiquitous places in America: your local Walmart parking lot.

Thanks to a new arrangement between Tribeca and the retail giant, 160 Walmart parking lots across the U.S. will make the impromptu conversion into drive-in cineplexes starting next month. The deal widens the reach of Tribeca’s already-planned drive-in series coming to a smaller selection of locations nationwide, serving up a curated lineup of movie favorites like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Black Panther, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, and more.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Tribeca is programming the film series, and details are still being finalized for which movies will light up Walmart parking lots throughout the summer. Additional genre movies that Tribeca already has announced for the headlining drive-in series it’s staging at big-name venues like the Rose Bowl and AT&T Stadium include The NeverEnding Story, Apollo 13, Back to the Future, Space Jam, Jaws, and The Wizard of Oz.

The idea, of course, is to fill the moviegoing void created by nationwide theater closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. As major movie chains still tentatively eye safe reopening strategies to welcome guests back, drivers can wheel in at select Walmart locations for a socially distanced evening that reportedly will include “appearances from stars as well as concessions delivered to customer vehicles,” via the report. And, because you’re already at a Walmart, moviegoers will even be able to “order drive-in essentials for curbside pickup prior to the start of the movie.”

Tribeca has been hosting drive-in events for nearly two decades, but casting a wider net by bring the experience to Walmart marks a fun way to get people (at least somewhat) together at a time when fans could definitely use the change of pace. “[N]ow, the Tribeca Drive-In is much more than a fun, retro way to see movies — it’s one of the safest ways for communities to gather,” Tribeca CEO Jane Rosenthal said in a statement quoted by THR.

While Tribeca’s drive-in program starts in bigger venues at three states beginning July 2, the Walmart portion will begin in August and run through October. To stay current on when the full drive-in experience could be coming to a Walmart parking lot near you, visit the program's landing page for the latest updates.