The light of inspiration often comes during the darkest of moments. William Pringle, a gerontologist who received his Masters degree from the University of Southern California, found himself like so many during the pandemic — locked down, bored out of his mind, and ready for safe, family-fun entertainment.
What better way to alleviate lockdown-induced boredom than with a bowl of popcorn and a movie?
Except, due to COVID-19, movie theaters across the nation shuttered their doors, possibly for good.
And that’s when Pringle had an idea.
Pringle shared, “I had watched a segment on the resurgence of a very old business, the drive-in. I researched the business model, realized it was trending nationwide and wanted to be involved in something that was family-oriented and offered people an opportunity for fun. After a career that required such seriousness, I wanted a change and it had to be something that brought some joy to people.”
The idea caught steam and Pringle began making plans to offer a drive-in movie night at the Oakdale Saddle Club rodeo grounds on the weekend of Feb. 26 through 28 at a cost of $30 per car.
“The screen is considered the best in the world, used at the Los Angeles Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival and major film studios for outdoor events,” Pringle said. “I wanted the best equipment on the market for this run. The total size is very large, 45-feet wide by about 25-feet tall. While large, it can be assembled in about four hours. The sound will be delivered though an FM transmitter and you can listen in the car or on any FM radio.”
While Pringle would love seeing this become a monthly offering, for now, it’s billed as a special event for Oakdale.
Pringle explained, “Because of the demand for this type of entertainment, I specifically chose equipment best suited for a tour and in fact, our tour calendar is rapidly filling for the year. While I wanted to start at home, we have events scheduled in several other California locations. In addition, we have been sponsored by a financial institution in Utah to host a Drive-In series of events in that state, concluding in Colorado. Another long tour in Texas is also in the works, primarily in Austin, where we intend to show Indian film, “Films of Bollywood.” This unique series is possibly the only Drive-In, nationwide, to do so, and this tour is getting a lot of interest from larger cities and sponsors alike.”
Pringle plans to screen classic films with proven attendance success. For the first weekend event here in Oakdale, Pringle chose the following films: Trolls World Tour, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Croods: A New Age, Back To The Future and The War with Grandpa. Showtimes are available on the website; two movies are planned on each of the three evenings, Friday through Sunday.
When asked what he thought the appeal was, he said, “It’s a unique experience. Being outside, under the stars and watching a movie is something unique. It’s also nostalgic. There’s a large group of folks who got to experience the drive-in in their youth. It’s an opportunity for them to reconnect to a great time. For younger folks, it’s something new to experience, in this way, it’s really for fun all.”
In this case, it would seem, the old saying, ‘what is old is new again,’ applies.
However, Pringle is aware that this fascination with something nostalgic is simply a response to the extraordinary times and might not last.
“While I’m thrilled about the response I have received from organizations and towns wanting to host these Drive-In events, I’m acutely aware of the fad nature of the business and anticipate it having a finite lifecycle,” he said. “For these reasons, I specifically chose equipment that can travel and fully intend on maximizing the itinerant aspect of the business.”
But making hay while the sun shines is a great way to pass the time — and the popcorn.
Shows are scheduled for February 26-28; gates will open at 5 p.m. and showtime for the first movie of the evening will start after sunset, around 6:30 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.OakdaleDriveIn.com.
The website also has a section of ‘FAQs’ – Frequently Asked Questions – and goes over some of the ‘ground rules’ for attendees.