Drive-through cinemas are back!

2020 has seen a major disruption in traditional 21st century forms of entertainment. Cinemas, festivals, concerts, and birthdays were common activities one would attend. COVID-19 challenged those forms of entertainment but entrepreneurs in the entertainment industry fought back, developing innovative ways where we can continue to experience our favourite forms of entertainment, but just in a different way. From virtual conferences, to birthdays hosted on web meeting apps, to drive-thru cinemas; the entertainment industry has found ways to sustain itself through our era of social distancing.

Drive -through cinemas have made a revival during COVID-19. The idea of a drive-through cinema fits in perfectly with social distancing rules; you get to enjoy a movie out at the cinema while reducing the risk of exposure. Drive-through cinemas were extremely popular from the 1930s onwards, but died out when audio and visual technology improved substantially in the last two decades.

There are certain things to expect when watching a movie at a drive-through cinema, which makes it different from your ordinary movie theatre experience.

For one, you don’t choose your ‘seat’ or parking location upon booking. That is decided by the traffic controller staff upon your arrival. Bigger cars are placed at the back and smaller cars at the front.

Next, tickets are sold by car, not by individual. So you end up paying the same as a car of four people even if you’re alone.

The idea of drive-through cinemas has divided movie-goers, with the best audio-visual technology claiming that a drive-through experience is less than satisfactory.

Below is an objective view of the pros and cons of a drive-through cinema:


  1. Great for social distancing and reducing risk of exposure to COVID-19.
  2. Convenient. You don’t have to find parking and then walk to the cinema. It’s all-in-one!
  3. Package deals and offers include food, which make it economical for groups of four or families with children.


  1. Poor visibility compared to an actual cinema. Your windshield gets in the way from optimum viewing pleasure.
  2. Only available at night or late afternoon. Drive-through cinema screens are not suited for daytime viewing.
  3. More expensive for two people than if you would go to a regular cinema. Drive in cinemas are providing lots of food included in the ticket fee, including popcorn, nachos, chocolates, water and soft drinks. These add up to a more expensive experience for just two people.
  4. Seating is not comfortable. Cinema seats are arguably more comfortable than being stuck in a closed car in front of your steering wheel for two hours.
  5. Not easy for the people sitting at the back to watch, especially if they are children.
  6. Sound quality is only as good as the stereo on your car and can come with added static due to the audio coming through FM frequency.

All-in-all, it’s fair to say that a drive-through cinema can in no way replace an actual movie theatre experience. However, in the mean-time, it’s a great way to get your cinema fix while keeping safe. In a post-COVID 19 world, drive-through cinemas will hold a nostalgic factor for the days that we are living in now.

Sidiqa Sohail is a freelance writer and consultant living in Dubai. Sidiqa has a degree in global peace and security from Durham University in the UK and is a former cafe and bakery owner. Sidiqa is a mum of 2 and enjoys baking, reading and jigsaw puzzles.

The content reflects the view of the author of the article and does not necessarily reflect the views of Citi or its employees, and we do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information presented in the article except information on Citibank N.A. – UAE products referenced herein.

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