Newberg’s Drive-In Movie Theater Could Reopen Next Week Amid a Surge of Interest

The 99W Drive-In has been flooded with calls from patrons asking the theater to open early.

(Courtesy of 99W Drive-In)

While most movie theaters are worrying about their futures, the 99W Drive-in Theatre in Newberg has rarely been so popular.

One of only three old-school drive-ins left in the state, the 99W usually opens in late spring. But this year, the theater has been flooded with calls from patrons asking it to open early.

The trend is not confined to Oregon. Last month, The New York Times published an article about the "unexpected revival" that drive-in theaters have seen now that traditional movie theaters are indefinitely shuttered.

The Times interviewed 99W owner Brian Francis for the article, who told the publication that during one week in late March he received 30 messages from customers asking him to open early: "Folks are thinking that the drive-in is the original social distance way to see a movie, and this is some kind of golden opportunity for the vanishing drive-ins to shine."

Nonetheless, according to the Portland Tribunedrive-ins like the 99W have struggled to convince Oregon officials that reopening would not pose a public health risk.

Since March, the 99W has been working on a safety plan—limiting the number of cars per screening, hourly restroom cleanings, doing away with intermissions—to satisfy state officials.

Now, the 99W could reopen as early as next Friday, May 22.

"I sure can't wait to open," Francis told the Tribune. "I've been waiting longer than usual. I haven't been trying to open because of the COVID-19 guidelines."

Related: From Drive-Thru Strip Clubs to Old-School Drive-Ins, Portlanders Are Finding Relief From Cabin Fever in Their Cars.

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