Screens » Film

Magic in the Air: Rooftop Cinema Club Expands into San Antonio, Offering Pop-Up Drive-In Movie Theater Experience

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COURTESY OF ROOFTOP CINEMA CLUB
  • Courtesy of Rooftop Cinema Club
It’s 11 p.m. and San Antonio resident Judy Sanders and her family have decided to shake off their cabin fever with a trip to Rooftop Cinema Club’s drive-in movie screening outside the front gates of Six Flags Fiesta Texas.

Amid the COVID-19 crisis, Rooftop Cinema — which arranges showings at rooftop venues in Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, San Diego and the U.K. — has taken its concept on the road and created an Alamo City pop-up.

The company extended its summer schedule here through July 19 to include classics such as The Princess Bride, Do the Right Thing, Joker, The Terminator and Casablanca.

The Sanders family showed up last Tuesday to see Back to the Future 2. They’d caught the original movie at the Stars & Stripes Drive-in Theatre in New Braunfels a few weeks ago, so Sanders wanted her 15-year-old son, who’d never seen the sci-fi franchise before, to continue with the 1989 sequel.

“Going to the drive-in is fun, and we like watching movies in our car and getting that big-screen experience,” Sanders said. “We’re going to the drive-in mostly because we have zero confidence in going to an indoor theater right now.”

With COVID-19 cases peaking in the Alamo City, movie fans such as the Sanders family are looking for the safest ways to keep themselves entertained during the summer months. After all, there’s only so much Netflix streaming, computer gaming and banana bread baking one can handle. Drive-in movies are a low-risk activity if patrons stay in their cars.

Last week, the Current caught up with Rooftop Cinema Club founder and owner Gerry Cottle about the possibility of making San Antonio the home for its ninth venue, and what makes drive-in movie theaters so special.

Has Rooftop Cinema Club ever presented a series in San Antonio?

This is our first venue of any kind in San Antonio. We’re still relatively new to Texas. Our first rooftop venue was opened in Houston in October 2018. We are proud to bring our biggest and best drive-in yet to San Antonio over the coming weeks and, hopefully, months.

So, is this a traveling show or do you have permanent theaters?

We aren’t a traveling show by nature. Our focus is on our rooftop venues, but in the times we’re in, we thought bringing back drive-in theaters was the right thing to do at the right time for movie fans looking for a safe and contactless night out. We started on a single rooftop in London in 2011 and have now expanded globally with three venues in the U.K. and five venues in [the U.S] — L.A., New York City, San Diego and Houston.

Why did you choose Six Flags?

Driven by our love of film, we are on a mission to transform nights at the movies to cinematic events like no other. We’ll bring you city skylines, sunsets, starlit evenings at our drive-ins, awesome drinks, delicious food, and great movies on the big screen. The La Cantera area and Fiesta Texas provide the beautiful scenery we look for in addition to the convenience for guests in the area.

There are no drive-in movie theaters in San Antonio today. What is it about a drive-in that is so special?

People know of the nostalgia of drive-ins and are now much more open to the idea and experience. We want to provide relief through the power of film to San Antonio during this uncertain time. Guests of the new drive-in theater can have an away-from-home cinema experience from the security of their vehicle.

But we have so many ways to watch movies at home now. Why get off the couch?

When watching a film in a cinema full of people, there is an energy and a feeling of magic in the air that can only come from the presence of other humans — watching what you’re watching, seeing what you’re seeing. You may not have the audience next to you to feel that energy, but we are confident that this new environment, with everybody in their cars and hearing the ambient noise of people responding in the distance, will be just as blissfully satisfying.

Would you ever consider opening a permanent Rooftop Cinema Club location in San Antonio?

Absolutely. We are searching for a new, permanent Rooftop venue in San Antonio as we speak. If you can recommend any, we are all ears!

$24-$32 per carload, 8:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. or 11:15 p.m. through July 19, 17000 W IH 10, rooftopcinemaclub.com.

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