From musicals to opera: A guide to drive-in entertainment across the UK

Jul 27, 2020

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Before 2020, if somebody said drive-in, that, for me, meant something edible and most likely fast food-related. Fast forward to today, drive-ins have a completely new meaning. Like it or not, post-pandemic drive-in entertainment could be the future of fun in the U.K.

The 1980 classic “Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back” recently topped the U.S. domestic box office thanks to the drive-in entertainment phenomenon now sweeping the world. Back in Blighty, artists are looking beyond films and on offer this summer are drive-in musical theatre shows, a stand-up comedy club and even some opera.

Cars provide built-in social distancing, and at all the entertainment options below, cars will be parked to allow plenty of space with additional safety measures in place including PPE, hand sanitising stations and staggered arrivals.

Below are our picks of drive-in entertainment options across the U.K.

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Related: 7 of the best road trips around the UK

(Photo courtesy of Wavelength)
(Photo courtesy of Wavelength)

Drive-in clifftop cinema — Cornwall

The team behind Europe’s original surf publication, Wavelength, are taking over the Boardmasters festival site overlooking the sea near Newquay. With space for over 200 cars and vans, the picturesque Trebelsue Farm is perched above the beach with jaw-dropping views out across the Atlantic. Sit back and watch some cinematic classics like “Point Break” (obviously!) and “Pulp Fiction”.

In addition to this line-up, from Sunday 2 August, for three consecutive Sunday evenings, the widely loved Fisherman’s Friends choir will be exclusively showcasing their story from tiny Cornish fishing village to global stardom, performing their world-famous shanties live from the clifftops.

When? Until 6 September 2020.

How much is it? Tickets are £5 per person or £25 per car or van with a maximum of five people per vehicle.

Get tickets here

(Image courtesy of The Drive In)
(Image courtesy of The Drive In)

The Drive In — London

This multi-genre, outdoor entertainment mecca is located in the heart of the regenerated area of Enfield, just off the A406. There is a lot going on including live music, comedy, kids-focused fun, talks and, of course, films. The Drive In is fully contact-free and sound will be played directly to your car speakers. Thanks to a top-of-the-range screen, you’ll also have a great view wherever you park up. Snacks and drinks are provided by The Drive In’s official food partner Nanny Bill’s and available to order through a mobile app, safely delivered to your car by a team of 1950s inspired drive-in attendants.

We all miss going to the theatre, so on 8 and 9 August and 12 September, you can experience a live two-hour West End musical drive-in experience with live performances from top West End stars.

When? Currently until 12 September 2020.

How much is it? Prices vary per performance. Prices from £35 per car (including booking fees) and 10 free car tickets per show will be available to NHS staff.

If you book through LOVEtheatre via the BA Avios eStore or Virgin Atlantic Shops Away, for two weeks starting today, you can earn 15 Avios or 12 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles for every £1 spent.

Or get tickets here

(Photo courtesy of The Parking Lot Social)

The Parking Lot Social — various venues across Scotland

The lucky people of Scotland now have a programme of immersive and interactive entertainment that’s broadcast from a stage straight to your car. Each event will feature a carefully curated mix of new and classic entertainment concepts that everyone can enjoy.

Each night, 250 cars will enjoy films, car-a-oke, bingo, silent discos, live bands, quizzes, comedy and food all done in a safe, socially distant way. For families with younger children, a Social Kids event will offer content adapted to a younger, family-oriented audience at an earlier start time.

Attendees will take part in the interactive event from their own cars, parked in front of a vast custom-made performance set. This spectacular touring installation is made up of two 40 feet screens, a 52 feet fire hydrant and inflatable gorillas standing watch over the stage.

When? Until 13 September 2020.

How much is it? Prices are per car and vary. Early bird tickets for events are available from £20 per car.

Get tickets here

Related: The best road trips from London that take 2 hours or less

(Photo courtesy of Drive and Dine Theatre)
(Photo courtesy of Drive and Dine Theatre)

Drive and Dine Theatre — various locations in England

Drive & Dine Theatre will be screening classic films (“Grease”, “La La Land”, “Aladdin” and more) as well as hosting Mark Watson’s Carpool Comedy Club with an eclectic collection of popular stand-up comics. Destinations for Drive & Dine Theatre in England include Bath, Warwick, Marlow, St Albans, Tunbridge Wells, Chichester and London.

Chef Tom Kerridge has created a menu inspired by the best of old-school American drive-in servings with a British twist including a classic sage and onion sausage roll, cheeseburgers, chicken tikka masala and a malted cookie cheesecake. All food orders will close three days prior to each screening to allow chefs time to prepare although drinks and snacks will also be available to purchase when you arrive.

When? Until 2 August 2020.

How much is it? Prices vary. Tickets for Mark Watson’s Carpool Comedy Club are £35 per person. One car per booking.

Get tickets here(Photo by Jason Beverley/Flickr)(Photo by Jason Beverley/Flickr)

La bohème — Alexandra Palace, London

For something high brow, The English National Opera has announced plans for a series of live 90-minute opera drive-in performances of Puccini’s “La bohème”. This new, modern, shorter version of the much-loved opera will be performed live with members of the award-winning ENO Orchestra and Chorus. The performers will be on a raised and covered stage, with large screens to the side also showing the performance so that everyone has a great view.

You do not need to own a car to come as there is a special partnership with Uber allowing non-car owners to rent out “boxes” or you can turn up on a bicycle although motorbikes are not allowed.

When? 19 to 27 September 2020.

How much is it? Tickets range from £38.75 to £103.75 depending on the size of vehicle (those over 1.6 metres high are categorised as large).

Get tickets here

(Photo courtesy of Adventure Cinema)
(Photo courtesy of Adventure Drive-In)

Adventure Drive-In — venues across England and Wales

Film fans will enjoy outdoor screenings of their favourite films, new and old, from the safety and comfort of their cars across 20 locations in England and Wales. Expect 80s classics including “Dirty Dancing”, “Back to the Future”, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, “Labyrinth” and “The Goonies” to family favourites like “Grease”, “The Lion King”, “Cool Runnings” and “The Greatest Showman”. There are also some of last year’s best releases including “Joker” and “Knives Out”. For food and drink, you can bring your own only — don’t forget the popcorn!

Passengers can enjoy the films on a giant LED screen, with sound transmitted via state-of-the-art speakers given to each car upon arrival. The front row of each event will also be reserved for NHS workers who will enjoy free tickets courtesy of Tesco. If you are planning ahead to 2021, you can also experience Adventure Cinema at a massive 112 locations across England and Wales.

When?  Until 27 September 2020.

How much is it? £30 per car.

Get tickets here

(Photo courtesy of Secret Cinema)
(Photo courtesy of Secret Cinema)

The Drive-In by Secret Cinema — Goodwood, West Sussex

Anything organised by the creative people of Secret Cinema is worth a look. For 12 years, it has reimagined the most iconic films by creating immersive worlds for us to explore, become part of, and get bewildered by. Now the time has come to sprinkle a little bit of magic on a classic idea in a new climate.

The drive-in experience will, of course, have a Secret Cinema twist the moment you arrive with 30 minutes of entertainment from Frankie and Johnny Starlight’s Original Travelling Drive-In followed by film classics and the biggest blockbusters. When you arrive you will be given a (sanitised) portable JBL speaker. You can then recline back and order food and drinks inspired an American diner.

When? Until 31 August 2020.

How much is it? Ticket prices start at £50 plus booking fees per car for off-peak screenings.

Get tickets here

Bottom line

We have all enjoyed Gary Barlow on Zoom and Instagram but after the cancellation of all festivals this year, we are now thirsty for the thrill of live performances. Drive-in entertainment in many varieties may well be the future of socially distanced fun for us and also a great excuse to discover more of the U.K.

Featured photo courtesy of The Drive-In Club

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