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'A smart way to get out of the house:' Tibbs Drive-in in the time of COVID-19

Tibbs Drive-In Theatre
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Posted at 2:24 PM, May 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-05 12:10:10-04

INDIANAPOLIS — The drive-in movie theatre has been around for decades, but it may be making a resurgence in the COVID-19 era.

Drive-in movie theatres are predicted to be making a comeback this summer as it permits safe social distancing when looking for entertaining ways to get out of the house during the coronavirus pandemic.

The 1950s were the heyday of drive-in movies. More than 300 drive-in theaters are currently in business across the U.S., down from about 4,000 in 1958.


Tibbs Drive-in Theatre on the west side of Indianapolis is evidence of the revival as the line to get into the theatre's parking lot last week was about half a mile long — almost two hours before the first movie was scheduled to begin.

Erin Kirby, RTV6's Creative Service's Producer, was at the drive-in last weekend and gave a first-hand account about her experience.

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"They started selling tickets at 7:30 (movie suppose to start at 8:45). My boyfriend and I got there at about 7, and the line was half a mile long. We got to the front and bought tickets at about 8 p.m. and then drove to our screen. We were settled in by 8:30, but you could see the line was very long behind us," Erin said of how it was getting into the parking lot of the theatre.

Erin says that Tibbs was implementing coronavirus precautions at every stage of the night.

"The person taking tickets was wearing gloves, and this is the closest contact we had," Erin said. "This being said, if I had a weakened immune system, I wouldn't have ordered food or used the bathroom because it was hard to make sure each person stayed six feet away."

Once into the lot, cars were parked one per pole. That's about ten feet apart.

Concession food can be ordered through an app or website on your phone.

"Very quick, maybe 10 minutes for the app to tell me my food was ready," Erin said.

Anyone who exited their car Tibbs asked to wear a mask, but Erin says only about 70% of folks actually followed the rules.

The movie ended up starting around 9:05 p.m., 20 minutes past the scheduled time. Although late, many factors played into this, according to Erin. Guests have to consider the timing of the sunset and also getting the long lines of cars through the gates.

"I was honestly surprised they were able to get everyone in by this time," Erin said.


Erin said she enjoyed her time at Tibbs Drive-in and felt her health was safe.

"It was so nice to get out of the house and do something that feels like an event on a Saturday night," Erin said. "Tibbs did a great job of spacing everyone out and making the rules clear. I think a drive in is a smart way to get out of the house but also stay socially distant."

Tibbs Drive-In Theatre
480 South Tibbs Avenue
Now Open Friday Saturday Sunday

Tibbs is now the only remaining drive-in theatre in Indianapolis. The Circle CIty used to 18 at one point in time, according to Tibbs.

"With four screens to choose from, the drive-in’s capacity now reaches nearly 1600 cars and provides state of the art digital projection and sound for finest movie viewing experience for our patrons," Tibbs website reads.

The Tibbs Drive-in Theatre first opened with only one screen in 1967 by United Artist Theatres, and then in 1972, two more screens were added.

The new owners of Tibbs bought the property in 2019.