Charlize Theron's Drive-In 'Fury Road' Screening Models a Celebrity Charity Event in the Age of COVID-19

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Charlize Theron at a charity drive-in screening of 'Mad Max: Fury Road' at The Grove

At a socially distant party benefitting Theron's Africa charity, the actress noted the eerie resonance of her 2015 postapocalyptic film: "I always felt like this story was a cautionary tale."

A drive-through red carpet. Gift bags with masks and hand sanitizer. Waiters knocking on car windows to deliver boxed gourmet dinners. This is the celebrity charity event in the age of COVID-19.

On Friday night, 90 cars zoomed onto the roof of The Grove parking lot for a drive-in screening of Mad Max: Fury Road benefitting the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project. The evening, a joint effort of Theron's nonprofit, the Caruso property and event agency CH Cre8tive, offered an inventive response to a current dilemma: At a time when philanthropic dollars are more desperately needed than ever and traditional gatherings are verboten, how do you plan the kind of party that makes people open their pocketbooks?

For Theron's CTAOP, the answer was an old-fashioned happening. "Drive-ins are my fuckin' jam," Theron said, addressing the crowd of cars while wearing a mask and a black Dior T-shirt that said "We Should All Be Feminists," as attendees honked their horns in affirmation.

Before the film began, guests drove through a greenscreen photo booth simulating a chase scene from the movie and took in a show of live stunt bikers sending clouds of smoke and burning rubber through the air. Event staffers delivered boxed dinners of fried chicken and baked crab handrolls from Blue Ribbon Sushi, meatballs and sweet corn ravioli from Edo by Edoardo Baldi, lemon macaroons from Ladurée, Maui Ku'ia estate chocolates and — of course — popcorn and candy.

To minimize contact, event organizers sent guests' gift bags to their homes ahead of the function, with bottles of Dior's J'adore perfume (Theron is a Dior spokeswoman), iS Clinical hand sanitizer and Beautycounter serum, and canned cocktails including Absolut Vodka Soda, Heineken beer and Babe rosé. The front row of the drive-in event was ringed by sponsor-supplied Porsches.

Event emcee Aisha Tyler implored attendees to vote and wear their masks, and Theron and her Fury Road co-star Nicholas Hoult took part in a pre-screening Q&A moderated by The New York Times' Kyle Buchanan.

The South Africa-born actress, who created CTAOP in 2007 to help fight HIV in her home country, noted the impact the current global health crisis is likely to have on the region her charity serves. "In developing countries, [COVID-19] is going to be devastating," Theron said. "It’s going to put the work we've done in HIV prevention, malaria prevention back a decade."

Earlier this year, Theron and CTAOP partnered with Entertainment Industry Foundation and CARE to launch the Together for Her campaign to help fight gender-based violence during COVID-19. Theron and CTAOP committed $1 million to COVID-19 relief efforts with $500,000 specifically designated for Together for Her.

During the Q&A, Theron and Hoult reflected on the impact the 2015 postapocalyptic action film had on their careers — "I knew I'd really arrived as an actor when there was a scene where you spit in my face," Hoult said to Theron. They also tackled the eerie contemporary resonance of the movie, in which Tom Hardy's Mad Max wears a metal mask and Theron's Furiosa tries to survive and retain her humanity in a bleak, resource-starved future.

"We're basically dressed like Tom Hardy in the film," Theron said. "We're wearing muzzles to protect ourselves. I always felt like this story was a cautionary tale. It feels so imminent. The story of the search for community and belonging and finding your tribe really resonated with me. We need to do better. We need to take care of each other."