Queen Elizabeth opens Britain's newest drive-in movie venue ... her estate

It doesn’t matter if you are an Anglophile or not, a trip to a drive-in movie on the grounds of Sandringham Estate would make for an extraordinary visit. Queen Elizabeth is making that possible by opening up Sandringham for one weekend at the end of this month.

The coronavirus pandemic is bringing back a fading entertainment experience – the drive-in movie. In the United States, there is a rich history of drive-in movies and I’m old enough to remember when it was a popular thing to do on a summer night, especially during our family trips to visit relatives in the midwest. With social distancing requirements due to the coronavirus, drive-ins are experiencing a comeback. The general public may be hesitant to sit in an indoor movie theatre with a bunch of strangers during the plague, but a drive-in offers a perhaps safer choice for those looking to get out of the house. With social distancing guidelines in effect, cars will be far enough apart for moviegoers to get out and stretch their legs. There will be a pop-up bar that will sell soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, and snacks.

The Queen is opening up the grounds of Sandringham in Norfolk, England, her winter retreat, as an entertainment alternative for a weekend. It is normally open to the public but like everywhere else, Sandringham Estate has made changes during the pandemic. According to its website, there are a few activities coming up – garden tours, apple picking in October, a light trail in November and December, and a Christmas craft, food, and gift fair. So, clearly public support of the estate is encouraged.

It’s an interesting assortment of movies that have been selected. There will be a matinee offered that is suitable for young audiences on Saturday and Sunday. Early evening movies at 5:00 p.m. are followed by 9:00 p.m. showings. Tickets cost about $40.00. People can pay extra to rent a table and chairs to set up next to the car. Rotating food vendors will circulate during the movie.

Starting on Sept. 25, the 20,000-acre private home of Queen Elizabeth and several previous monarchs will screen award-winning movies, like “1917,” “A Star Is Born,” “Bohemian Rhapsody” and more.

Sam Mendes’ Oscar-winning war film will kick off the drive-in series at 5 p.m. on Sept. 25, followed by “Rocketman,” Taron Egerton’s turn as legendary British musician Elton John, at 9 p.m.

A trio of drive-in films follows on the next two days. Pixar’s original “Toy Story” will play at 1 p.m. on Sept. 26, then Hugh Jackman’s musical “The Greatest Showman” will air at 5 p.m., and finally “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the biographical drama about British rock band Queen, will close out the night at 9 p.m.

The final day, Sept. 27, keeps the musical theme going with some classic films and newer titles. Disney’s animated film “Moana” will play at 1 p.m., the iconic ’70s musical “Grease” rocks the screen at 5 p.m., and Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s Oscar winner “A Star Is Born” will close out the series at 9 p.m.

How do they show a movie during daylight hours?

If you are wondering how a drive-in works during daylight hours, the Sandringham pop-up will use an LED screen as opposed to projection. (Audio will be transmitted to the vehicle’s “bluetooth or aux,” not a left band FM frequency.)

In the United States, drive-in movie venues are also offering concerts as an entertainment option.

Last month, Walmart launched free, family-friendly drive-in movies in their parking lots. Walmart teamed up with Tribeca Enterprises to show the movies in 160 locations.

“Beginning in August, Walmart will roll out this red carpet experience in towns across the country for a combined 320 showings,” the company wrote on its website. “This family-friendly night will include hit movies, special appearances from filmmakers and celebrities and concessions delivered right to customer vehicles.”

The Walmart Drive-in promises families a fun, contact-free experience where they can watch popular films thoughtfully curated by the Tribeca Film Festival,” Tribeca wrote on their site. “Enjoy a wide range of films safely from your vehicle, including nostalgic favorites from your childhood and action-packed films that’ll make your kids feel like superheroes.”

I guess this is making the best of a lousy summer thanks to the coronavirus. It’s good to see people thinking outside the box.