Lowcountry moviegoers turn to drive-in as other places go dark

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By Rob Way|March 24, 2020 at 3:25 PM EDT - Updated March 24 at 7:21 PM

BEAUFORT, S.C. (WCSC) - Many businesses have seen a sharp decline in the number of customers walking through their doors, but one Beaufort spot has seen just the opposite, and it’s because there are no doors to walk through.

The Highway 21 Drive-In has given movie goers the option to get out of the house and remain socially distant from others, and according to one of its owners, Cara Russell, business is booming.

“You think that you’re not going to make it, because everyone’s going to be inside, but all of a sudden, it’s car after car after car," Russell said. “This past Saturday night, I had to open up a second ticket booth, because we had cars down on to 21, and we got to get people in here. The movie starts at 8 p.m., and they want to see it. It was like wow. We don’t see that unless its summer time with big movies.”

The 42-year-old drive-in is a family-run business, which means every penny counts. So, closing the concession stand temporarily because of the coronavirus wasn’t an easy decision.

“The concession stand is how we stay alive. To close it is going to hurt," Russell said. "But, it’s so much better to keep everyone safe. Let them go out and eat local. Eat local. These restaurants, they care. We’re all in this together, and we all have to help each other.”

Russell certainly doesn’t do this alone. Her father runs the projectors of the two, soon-to-be-three, screens at the theater.

“My whole family works up here. My daughters work here. My nephews will be up here one day working, and I want them to be able to run this and see my future grandchildren up here running the drive-in," Russell said. “That’s what it’s all about. It’s about family. It’s about your community.”

The community seems to be on board, too. The drive-in is now open every night but Monday.

”It’s very emotional when you’re this small of a business, and you’re just trying to offer people a chance to have good, safe time to have fun, and they embrace it. So, it feels like you’re doing something right," Russell said. "You feel like. ‘What are we going to do? Are we going to stay alive?’ Then all of a sudden you have cars going down the highway. It’s amazing.”

Although the popcorn machines may be empty and the grill may be off, Russell is already looking ahead to when they can turn it all back on.

“We’re not going to be in this forever," Russell said. “Once we get back up, the concession stand will be up. Mimi’s funnel cakes will be pumping out again. Our burgers and everything will be going back, so it’s just a short period of time. But, it’s the least we can do to keep the community safer and boost our local restaurants here.”

Copyright 2020 WCSC. All rights reserved.

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