After a false start, the Redwood Drive In is open for business — the first movie theater in Salt Lake County to open since the lifting of safety restrictions put in place because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The drive-in, at 3688 Redwood Road in West Valley City, started double features at four screens last Friday. And this Friday, the theater will open two movies that have yet to show on local screens: A horror thriller, “The Wretched,” and a musical remake of the 1980s cult classic “Valley Girl.”
The Redwood’s owners had planned to open April 24, but were shut down by the Salt Lake County Health Department. Last week, county health officials checked out the Redwood and gave the go-ahead, said Nicholas Rupp, the county health department’s spokesman.
The theater is enforcing 6 feet of social distancing in the concession and restroom lines, Rupp said, as well as making space between vehicles. Also, staff members are wearing face masks.
Utah has five working drive-in theaters, and four of them will be showing movies this Friday.
Both the Motor Vu Theater in Erda, in Tooele County, and the Echo Drive-In in Roosevelt, in Duchesne County, will open for the season Friday — both playing Pixar’s “Onward” and the adventure drama “The Call of the Wild,” which were released before the statewide closures. And the Basin Drive-In in Mount Pleasant, in Sanpete County, has been open since mid-March.
Coleman’s Motor-Vu, in Riverdale in Weber County, aims to open in early June.
The Redwood was closed for the winter during the week in mid-March when all the sit-down theaters in the Salt Lake Valley announced they would be closing because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the state’s recommendation against gatherings of more than 10 people.
Last week, Gov. Gary Herbert announced that state health officials are recommending that groups of 20 or fewer can gather safely — as the state moves to the “moderate risk” category for reopening the state’s economy.
A spokesman for the Utah-based Megaplex Theatres chain said last week that the company is aiming to reopen its 16 multiplexes, from Logan to Mesquite, sometime in June.
The nonprofit Salt Lake Film Society, which runs Salt Lake City’s two arthouse theaters, the Broadway Centre Cinemas and the Tower Theatre, have not set a reopening date.
“For everyone’s safety we won’t be opening very soon,” SLFS marketing director Barb Guy said, pointing out the nonprofit is screening films through an online video-on-demand portal, SLFS@Home.
When the big chains that operate along the Wasatch Front — Cinemark, AMC and Regal — will open is still up in the air.
Part of the problem is the theaters don’t have new Hollywood products to screen. As movie theaters closed nationwide, studios rescheduled their big-budget releases for April, May and June to dates this fall or next year. A few titles, like Warner Bros.’ Scooby-Doo reboot “Scoob!” and Universal’s “Trolls World Tour,” moved to video-on-demand.
The next big studio movie slated to open is director Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” from Warner Bros., on July 17 — followed by Disney’s live-action “Mulan” remake on July 24.
In late April, the trade publication The Hollywood Reporter wrote that AMC would not open until maybe early July, when there is “a regular schedule of new theatrical blockbusters that get people truly excited about returning to their favorite movie theaters.”