The Drive-in at Carraway Village: The ‘New Normal’ Cinema?

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Born out of pandemic necessity, The Drive-in at Carraway Village keeps the films rolling

By CC Kallam / Photography by John Michael Simpson

Pandemic or no pandemic, the show must go on, which is exactly why Film Fest 919 organizers Randi Emerman and Carol Marshall formed a Plan B to hold the festival last year. With movie theaters closed, the pair turned to a blast from the past: the drive-in. The idea came to Randi when she passed by an empty lot off Eubanks Road. “I drove [by], and it caught my eye,” she says. “I said, ‘This is the perfect, perfect spot.’ I contacted Kyle Whitaker and Adam Golden at Northwood Ravin, the developers of Carraway Village. They jumped in right away to partner with the film festival to create the drive-in.”

Drive-in theater
Nathan Tomasini and Rebecca Tomasini enjoy a night out at the movies.

The Drive-in at Carraway Village allowed the festival to run last October for its third year. Moviegoers stayed in their cars, which provided plenty of room for social distancing, and enjoy the lineup of award-winning films. “We could fit [around] 100 cars,” Randi says. Since the drive-in opened on Oct. 13, 2020, the community has had the opportunity to see 46 films in 37 weeks on its big screen, including movies, ballet, concerts, musicals and curated programs. The throwback experience was such a hit that Randi and Carol wanted to keep it going. “It started as being a dream for only the film festival, [but] we just decided to bring this to the community,” Randi says. “It’s something we plan to keep opening and operating for years and years to come.”

Guests can order typical concessions like Sour Patch Kids, Twizzlers and popcorn or cheese-and-cracker boxes for something a little bit different. Proceeds from concessions during the monthly Wednesday evening Girls’ Night Out will go to nonprofit A Lotta Love, which helps women and children transitioning through homelessness back into society. On Fido’s Night Out – this month held July 16 and 17 – moviegoers can bring their furry friend along with a donation of pet food to Paws on Durham, a partner of Meals on Wheels of Durham.

When it comes to programming for a town full of enthusiastic Tar Heels this summer, Randi says there is no question whether “Space Jam: A New Legacy” will be playing. “I mean, how can we pass up anything about basketball in this area?”

Drive-in info

“There [was also] major excitement around ‘In the Heights,’” Randi says. “[It] is really good.” Actor Jimmy Smits, who plays Kevin Rosario in the movie, even recorded a promo video encouraging people to see the film at the drive-in. “It’s the perfect movie for how our times are changing right now,” Randi says. “We’re back to a little bit of normalcy. … It’s just happy and fun and delightful. And it really encompasses the struggle we’ve been through, and the hope that we now have.”

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Chapel Hill Mag Intern

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