Sony Debuts Sold-Out Drive-In Experience With Masks and Memorabilia

Sony Picture Studios halt film and TV production amid Coronavirus on April 10, 2020 - Getty-H 2020
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The studio kicked off its on-the-lot series with 2010's 'Grown Ups,' accompanied by a 'Ghostbusters' Ecto-1 classic car and plenty of safety precautions.

After announcing a new 12-film drive-in series on its Culver City lot on Wednesday, Sony Pictures kicked off the experience on Friday night with a showing of 2010's Grown Ups among colorful lights, masked staffers and classic movie props.

The screenings, which mark the first time a major studio lot has ever been turned into a drive-in, sold out within 24 hours of being announced after scheduling films for every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from Aug. 14 to Sept. 9. The socially distanced outdoor theater can hold about 75 cars and tickets were sold to the public via Atom Tickets for $30 per car.

Ahead of its first showing, guests were sent a list of safety precautions, including that vehicles could have no more than four people — all from the same household —, vehicles must be hard-topped and masks were required whenever outside of them, along with a questionnaire for screening COVID-19 symptoms. Upon arrival at the iconic Sony gates, masked and face-shield-ed employees took guests' temperatures and again asked about symptoms. Once approved, cars were directed into the Thalberg parking lot, where lines had been drawn for each vehicle to maintain proper distance. Porsche is sponsoring the drive-in series, reflected by signage and a Taycan Turbo positioned at the entrance.

Two large screens were set up in the space, rolling through trailers for upcoming Sony projects including Paul Rudd's Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Jared Leto's Morbius and James Corden's Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, as well as commercials for registering to vote in the upcoming election. Ghostbusters, currently set for a March 5, 2021 release, had a particularly large presence at the event, with promotional signage visible on the studio's buildings and an Ecto-1, the classic car from the film, sitting in the drive-in area for fan photo-taking.

With cars filing in, masked employees in golf carts (repurposed from their past lives of shuttling employees and talent around the lot), guided guests into spaces and provided directions to restrooms they had designated for the event. In between trailers, Spider-Man also appeared on screen with text reminding the audience of the event's safety rules.

As the sun went down ahead of the 8 p.m. start time, colorful lights turned on all around the lot to provide some ambience — red, blue, green and pink under trees, reflected on the studio buildings and under its rainbow art installation. Entry into other areas of the lot were barricaded and blocked by security to discourage wandering. Unlike most drive-ins, sound was not only available through a specific FM radio channel but was also played through speakers on the lot. Snacks were not provided but guests were encouraged ahead of time to bring their own.

Grown Ups, starring Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade and Kevin James, started off with behind-the-scenes clips and interviews with the cast before launching into the film, and cars were led off the lot shortly after it ended.

The drive-in's premiere weekend will continue with Karate Kid on Saturday and Ghostbusters on Sunday; Baby Driver, Jumanji: The Next Level, Don't Breathe, Bloodshot and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood are also on the upcoming schedule of library titles. The Selena-Gomez-produced The Broken Hearts Gallery, which Sony picked up during the pandemic, will also use the drive-in to make its big screen debut.