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The return of the drive-in


Spark’s digital drive-in gets a boost from the pandemic

Somehow a global pandemic has pulled us into the past, not because of its connections to the earlier Spanish Flu but instead for its entertainment options. Gone are the days where packed stadiums and nightclubs created our weekend itineraries.

Instead we’ve been forced allowed to embrace a simpler way of life—one that includes picnics at the park, long hikes, and trips to the drive in movie theater.

Across the country a spark in drive-in attendance has ignited. With most traditional movie theaters closed, and entertainment options scarce, a night at the drive-in has become the new date night, the new family fun, once again; a trend that hasn’t existed since the 1950s and 60s when drive-in movie theaters peaked in popularity.

Sparks’ own El Rancho Drive-In Theater has experienced a revitalization no one expected. As one of just 342 drive-in theaters left in the country, and the only one in northern Nevada, the West Wind All-Digital Drive-In has made its coin showing a mix of semi-new releases (since most blockbuster movie release dates have been postponed) and classic films. Plus there was an exclusive Blake Shelton concert as part of a nationwide drive-in concert event in July along with free Artown screenings in the month of July.

On a regular night, movies are shown in a double-feature format with the first movie starting shortly after sunset and the second film coming on right after. As a result, patrons can be entertained well into the night, watching their favorite childhood movies like Ghostbusters, family films including Inside Out, 2020 releases like Bad Boys for Life and scary movies such as The Invisible Man. Grab popcorn, pull up in your car and get ready to wax nostalgic—just please refrain from singing “Sandy” in the parking lot–people are still trying to watch a movie here.

Because it adheres to social distancing standards and provides an outdoor environment, which experts have called safer in limiting transmission of COVID-19, the drive-in will likely continue its reign as the premium movie theater spot in Reno-Sparks.

But, it soon won’t be the only place to catch a flick.

Movie theaters have announced their reopening plans, with Cinemark, which owns the majority of movie theaters in Reno and Sparks, reopening Friday, Aug. 14. This also includes the return of its movie club. The timing is perfect as new releases come out and will get the big openings they have always depended on once again.

If sitting in a theater with a mask on for two-plus hours doesn’t sound like your version of a good time—and the risk of transmission from strangers gives you pause—Cinemark is offering one more way to get people back to the movies. Classic films will be shown in private screenings, holding up to 20 people, and starting at $99 (that’s about $5 per ticket if you max it out) for those who want to go back to the movies while avoiding the company of strangers.

Check out movie times for both:


Nora Tarte
Nora Tarte
Nora Heston Tarte is a long-time Reno resident living on the southside of town. In addition to food, her hobbies include wine, hiking, yoga and travel. She is also the managing editor of a regional, lifestyle publication and freelances for other publications most frequently in the travel space. Nora received her bachelor's in Journalism from California State University, Sacramento before graduating from University of Nebraska, Lincoln with a master’s in Professional Journalism. You can follow her travel adventures, and local exploits, on her Instagram account @wanderlust_n_wine.




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