It’s Saturday night at Bengies Drive-in Theatre in Middle River, Maryland, and more than 300 cars have paid $11.50 per person for a Covid-safe showing of Jaws and Jurassic Park. The theater had shut down for three months due to the pandemic, but it reopened in early June and has been a popular destination for cooped-up movie fans ever since.
Cars now park at least six feet from one another, with Bengies staff—wearing face masks and nitrile gloves—measuring the distance with precut pieces of white rope. “It’s a place where you can stay safe and be provided mental relief,” says Bengies owner D. Edward Vogel. The theater’s season usually runs from early spring to late fall (generally March to November, depending on the severity of the winter), so film fans are likely to continue flocking to the drive-in as the crisis rages on.
Bengies, which has been in operation since 1956, is an old-fashioned place, the kind of establishment where Vogel introduces each screening with a greeting and some drive-in movie trivia. That retro vibe is a big part of the appeal. (After all, you can watch Jurassic Park on your Samsung at home.) Rather than hiring a local teen, Vogel actually runs the projector himself. “The projection booth,” he says, “is still my favorite place to watch.”
This article appears in the August 2020 issue of Washingtonian.