By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Two Scottsdale Airpark events firms are promising to “adapt and overcome” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead of throwing events with elbow-to-elbow crowds, R Entertainment is taking social distancing seriously and hosting drive-in movies at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.
“We wanted to show people that they could get out of their houses in a safe way and have fun,” says Kerry Dunne of R Entertainment. “One thing we believe is people feel safe in their cars, as opposed to a room with 5,000 people.”
And it worked. All 100 spots were sold out for the first weekend’s movies, “Frozen II” and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” May 1 to May 3.
“The faces on these kids were priceless,” Kerry says. “Everybody was smiling and happy. People were dressed up in princess costumes. It was all worth it.”
His brother, Dave Dunne, who runs Salt River Fields, says interest has blossomed for the pop-up drive-in movie experience.
“We’re getting a lot of interest from people who want to do corporate buyouts for their staff or customers to come out for a night,” Dave says.
“I know it’s going to start getting hot here pretty soon, but I think this might have more legs than I thought. Once the governor lifts everything off and we go back to normal, we might keep trying this for a while.
“We’ve even thought about bringing it back for other times of the year, when the weather is a little nicer, like Christmas or early December/late November. We could have a Christmas Village with Santa and show some holiday movies.”
The movies are shown in the Center Field lot on the east side of the complex on an LED wall attached to a stage. Sound is piped in through the car radio. The price is $25 per carload, and concessions can be added. For a list of movies, visit srfdrivein.com.
“I was happily surprised with the picture quality, and the sound was fantastic,” Dave says.
Kerry adds, “It’s really amazing to have this kind of technology to be able to do this. When technology meets opportunity, it really works out for everybody. The experience, the sound and the picture were great. The screen was out with a major rock band all last year. It’s just been hanging around in a warehouse with the guys from Showboss. Pro Production said they had a stage. My brother runs Salt River Fields. It felt like the Hardy Boys do a festival.”
Kerry says they’re working with the Diamondbacks to create a Little League night, and others have called for a first-responders night.
The Dunnes are considering other types of events, too, such as concerts, karaoke nights and comedy shows.
“There was a car concert in Denmark that went off really, really well,” Kerry says. “We’ve been discussing that. We were thinking of rolling out some really cool concerts where everyone turns on their speakers and they beam the show into the car. We can make the shows interactive with Instagram, too. We can be creative as can be. The technology allows us to do so many things.
“What makes this so fun is the technology is so flexible. This has been a blessing for Salt River Fields, our partner and us. We’re on the cutting edge of doing something positive, and we keep exploring our options. It may die out the end of May, and it’ll be an interesting chapter in our lives.”
‘Benefit of the community’
Steve LeVine of Steve LeVine Entertainment and Public Relations is teaming with WestWorld for a host of entertainment options.
Plans were not finalized at press time, but LeVine says the lineup will include movies and karaoke nights. For more information, visit sletickets.com or westworldaz.com/#events.
“We came up with these ideas—like comfort food,” he says. “I had a friend who went through this (shutdown) in Shanghai. He moved in with his parents in San Francisco. He said the one thing that brought him comfort was a lot of things he did as a kid—old video games, sitting around watching old movies with his family.
“Watching the success of drive-ins and the things happening so far, this does work. We know it’s going to be hot here, but people still want to have these social events.”
Previously, LeVine held drive-in movies temporarily at Sonoran Village Marketplace, and about half of the patrons wore masks.
“We get about half the people who are just OK going back into regular society,” LeVine says. “No masks, no nothing. The other half really wants to wear their masks and be respectful of everyone around them. As a producer, we need to see both sides of that. We have to respect the people who want their space, by making these rules.”
At WestWorld, LeVine expects to host “Caraoke” Nights, where “people sing their hearts out from a little community within a big community.”
“Based on the way the guidelines have changed, you’re not confined to your car,” LeVine says. “All the CDC guidelines and precautions are into effect. People are in their own circles. People never have lines to go to the bathroom. It’s no different than your normal experience of going to a major grocery store.”
Other planned activities include seminars and youth performances that can be “broadcasted to everybody who cares.”
“Our screens are full digital, high-def,” he adds. “They can be seen during the daylight hours, too.
“Concerts have been on our mind. We just want to make sure it’s done correctly. We’ve spoken to DJs, who can follow the social distancing guidelines. We don’t want to promote people getting out of their cars. We want to have that opportunity for people to dance in place and honk their horns (to show) that they’re having a good time.” ν