Outdoor entertainment is nothing new for Rooftop Cinema Club, which is set to open a Dallas drive-in Tuesday. The new venue will be the fourth Texas-based drive-in the company has opened since March.
While Rooftop has been around for a decade, its owner, Gerry Cottle, has been in show business his whole life.
“I was born into a circus family,” says Cottle, who by the time he was 3 months old had traveled to Greenland, Iceland, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore with a circus.
Drive-In at The Central, located at 2999 N. Carroll Ave. at North Central Expressway, will have a 52-foot screen with audio access via FM radio when the shows start to roll this week.
Grease and Raiders of the Lost Ark kick things off at the outdoor venue, where guests can watch two screenings seven nights a week during an opening program, which runs through Sept. 6. The lineup will include a mix of modern and classic films, focusing on providing a safe night out with family or friends.
Family-friendly flicks such as Frozen II and The Sandlot will start around 8 p.m. followed by the 11 p.m. screenings of A Star is Born, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and others.
For now, moviegoers will need to watch the films from their vehicles, truck beds or hatchbacks and wear masks when they leave their automobiles. Lawn chairs and blankets on the ground are not allowed at this time, but guests can bring their own snacks and drinks or choose from food truck fare and concessions.
Tickets cost $28 or $35 per vehicle, regardless of the number of people inside, for the 8 p.m. screenings, depending on parking preference, while the later screenings cost $22 and $28 Sunday through Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, prices match the 8 p.m. showings.
To support local community organizations and help people affected by COVID-19, Rooftop Cinema Club also hosts contactless, $5 community screenings at all of its drive-in venues. Cottle says the Dallas drive-in will donate 100% of proceeds from the first screening on each Monday directly to the North Texas Food Bank and to Black Lives Matter.
“We wanted to be giving back and the $5 is mostly so people will turn up, but then 100% of the proceeds go to the charities North Texas Food Bank and contributions to Black Lives Matter because that’s important to us as an organization as well.
“It’s really about recovery,” he continues. “It’s about community.”
Along with allowing family members a chance to leave their homes for an evening together, Cottle says he sees the venture as an opportunity to work with local businesses and food caterers in a city that already has a strong film heritage.
“[Drive -in theatres] are here to stay as long as people need this as a safe escape during this uncertain time,” he says.
Along with films and food, Cottle says moviegoers can expect an upbeat, retro vibe brimming with flamingos and bright pink and blue hues.
“It’s very Instagram-friendly,” he says of the space, noting people everywhere can be seen smiling, bumping heads and singing along even though they’re in isolation.
Cottle started Rooftop Cinema Club in London’s Shoreditch entertainment district before taking the outdoor cinema experience to New York, Los Angeles, San Diego and Houston. He says he hopes to expand the company’s offerings in Texas, California and Florida over the next three or four years when, and if, things go back to “normal,” (whatever that is) after COVID-19.
With capacity restrictions in place because of the virus, Cottle says Rooftop Cinema Club naturally pivoted toward drive-ins “in order to meet the bottom line.”
“Our whole thing is about bringing celebration in the community back to the cinema,” Cottle says before adding that entertainment is not the only reason that he does what he does.
“That was what I was born into, you know,” he says. “It’s in my blood.”
For more information, visit rooftopcinemaclub.com.