Sandy, Danny and the cast of Grease are not the only ones spending time at the drive-in these days. The Cortland County community, including myself, flocked to Virgil this past weekend to check out the only outdoor cinema experience in the county.
Greek Peak Mountain Resort, normally known for it's ski trails, over 500 feet of water slides, and more recently dancing dinosaurs, has found a creative way to bring some of the first inklings of public entertainment to us in months. They transformed the parking lot of the Adventure Center into a temporary outdoor movie theater, providing a few hours of escapism while still complying with the recommended social distancing measures. The staff put together a screen that films can be projected on which hangs on the exterior of the Adventure Center, and they use AM/FM radios to broadcast the sound inside each vehicle.
I had the opportunity to enjoy this new local activity with my husband this past weekend. The movie was scheduled to start at 8:45 p.m., but we decided to take advantage of the gates opening at 7:30 p.m. to score a good viewing spot. We were not the only ones with this idea, as a line of cars snaked down NY-392 toward the Adventure Center for their second of two showings that weekend of Dolittle. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the Greek Peak staff who were handing out information about tuning into the movie, coupons to the concession stand and the Trax2Go menu.
Despite the lot being more than half full, we were able to find the perfect corner spot - the lot allows 50 cars in its parking lot at a time and for the second night in a row, the evening was sold out. Theatergoers arriving in trucks and SUVs aimed their flatbeds and hatchbacks at the screen and reclined amid blankets and pillows brought from home. Those sitting in their cars, tilted their seat back, relaxed and had plenty of room for snacks. Kids were entertaining themselves with games brought from home, friends were sharing laughs from one truck bed to another and others were just enjoying the fresh air from the comfort of their lawn chair.
Once we settled in, we slipped on our masks and made our way to the Concession Stand, located inside the Adventure Center. When you enter, you can either turn left for the bathrooms or snake your way to the right to load up on snacks. You can choose from movie theater popcorn (extra butter, please!) to caramel corn, boxes of candy and cotton candy. If you're thirsty, they have flavored wine slushies, beer and wine for the adults, and soda and non-alcoholic slushies for the kiddos. Looking for something a little more substantial? Customers can also order dinner from Trax2Go, Greek Peak's takeout option during the pandemic. To order, people can call (607) 662-3039 or text TRAX to 33733. Restaurant staffers then deliver the food to the car based on the parking spot number. Food options range from their wood-fired pizza, or munch on one of their 6" subs. If you'd rather split a bunch of shareables, they have pickle fries, chicken wings, fries, onion rings and more.
With a tub of buttered popcorn, a Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza and cold brew in hand, we tuned into a dedicated radio station for audio, and enjoyed the evening's feature on the big screen from the cargo space. The outing is definitely not your typical communal moviegoing experience - in the best way possible. The atmosphere is more casual. You can run to the bathroom or restock on snacks mid-movie without having to awkwardly maneuver yourself down theater aisles. You don't have to spend your date or outing with family sitting in silence for two hours - I found myself interacting with the screen in front of us without aggressive stares and overly dramatic sighs. You can even sneak a text or two, though we suggest turning the technology off and just enjoying the evening.
For anyone concerned about safety, Greek Peak has social distancing and strict sanitary guidelines in place. Workers, including the restaurant staffers, are always wearing masks, customers are required to wear masks inside the Adventure Center, parking spaces are large enough to create buffer zones between cars, restrooms are sanitized between customers, line social distancing at the concession stand is enforced and hand sanitizer is available for customers.
This outdoor movie experience may seems like a relic from the past, but in a time when the world feels like it is shutting down, Greek Peak has tapped into their roots for entertainment. At the end of the evening, the movie takes a back seat to the socially-distant gathering, which served as a brief, but much needed remedy to months of stay-at-home living.
OUTDOOR CINEMA TIPS
FOLDING CHAIRS. Now that the colder temperatures seems to be behind us, you will most likely want to sit outside of your vehicle. Bring your folding lawn chairs to set up in your parking space just in front of your car.
BLANKETS. If you have a truck or SUV, bring blankets and pillows for supreme comfort. A warm day still makes for a really cool night.
PORTABLE RADIO. If you can help it, turn off your car completely during the movie, especially if you're unable to shut off your lights completely. If you don't want to drain your car's battery using the stereo, bring a battery-powered portable radio instead. Don't forget to test your batteries before you go!
PRE-MOVIE ACTIVITIES. You need to get there early if you want a good spot at the outdoor cinema, and having some fun activities makes the time fly by (especially if you come with kids).
BUG SPRAY. It's better to be safe than sorry! You don't want to be bugged by bugs during the feature so make sure you pack that bug repellent.
PLASTIC BAGS FOR GARBAGE. There are garbage cans setup throughout the parking lot at Greek Peak, but trash will pile up quickly throughout the movie. Bringing your own bags will keep your vehicle clean and make it easier to carry your garbage to the cans.
PLATE, NAPKINS AND PLASTIC CUPS. Trax2Go does supply plates, napkins and utensils with your dinner order, but it doesn't hurt to have extra on hand if you're divvying up slices of pizza or BBQ Chicken Wings. Baby wipes are also great for sticky fingers and spills.
FLASHLIGHT. You don't realize how dark it is until you're trying to find your way back to your car from the bathroom. So bring a real flashlight (don't forget to check the batteries), or use your iPhone's built-in flashlight.
Friday thru Sunday, May 22-24, 2020
feat. Jumanji: The Next Level (PG-13)
Movie begins 30 minutes after sunset
$20 per vehicle, includes $5 voucher to concession stand.
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