Drive-in movie theater opening at Tri-County Speedway

Published 3:06 pm Wednesday, May 6, 2020

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Drive-in movie theaters may make a comeback amid the pandemic. Due to social distancing, the event space allows for safe family fun, and the opportunity will soon be an option for all in the communities of Escambia County.

Announced this past week, the Tri-County Speedway is adding a drive-in movie theater to the event space. With a new film series planned entitled, “Screenings at the Swamp,” the speedway hopes to provide a new attraction to the area.

“This has been a dream of my dad’s for several years. Probably about 4 years ago he bought a cinema projector from a cinema that went out of business,” said Isaiah Day, tour promoter at the Tri-County Speedway.

Working alongside his brothers and dad, Day and his family seek to host family entertainment that is considered safe during the coronavirus crisis.

Day said that the theater option had long been at the forefront of their minds. Explaining his dad’s wishes, he shared, “He (Chuck Day) wanted to do it 3 years ago, and we had just finished the speed way.” Deciding it was not the right time, the family waited, storing away all the necessary items for an outdoor theater.

But, with the restrictions placed on entertainment venues, the opportunity finally presented itself in March. Day explained, “Back when all this started, my dad said, ‘People want to get out of the house.’ I said, ‘Yes sir, I agree with that.”

It was during that time, Day said that his dad decided it was time to open and believed it could last past the pandemic as a new form of family entertainment reminiscent of simpler times. “He started looking at our parking lot at the race track, and he said that it can accommodate about 1,000 cars on both sides of the parking lot,” said Day.

Next, following the decision, the group began building. “About a month and a half ago in earnest we started putting the screen structure together,” said Day.

With precise measurements, the screen began to take shape. “We actually got up there with his cinema projector and started getting our measurements to figure how far away we needed to be to make the image 50 ft. wide,” said Day. “The racetrack already uses an FM transmitter for its broadcast so all of it was there,” he added.

Now with everything in place, the next step is to open, which the Speedway hopes to do in the coming days.

“All systems are a go. We got our license from the state. We placed a film order,” said Day. The Speedway hopes to announce a film list this week. “We’re going to be able to operate the movie theater even with the safer-at home order,” he continued.

When opening, social distancing will be enforced among staff and all customers are advised to stay in cars. Restrooms will be available on site with a bathroom attendant present to help individuals maintain the 6 ft. distance. The cost is $20 per car. The Tri-County Speedway is located at 2988 Old Highway 31 in Flomaton.

Looking forward to the first showing, Day hopes the community will consider the entertainment option. He concluded, “I hope they [the community] are excited about it. When I was still up and coming there were a few drive-in movie theaters, they were cool! My mom and dad would back our truck in and we would sit in the bed of the truck and watch it. I am excited about it. It is a throw back to a simpler time, but what a better time than now.”

According to Day, the screen is 73 ft. tall. The drive-in theater is set to open in the coming days. Submitted photo