Is there a silver lining?

nostalgic-drive-in-theater-michael-swanson

Is there a silver lining?

One silver lining of these challenging times might be the creativity, adaptability and resilience nonprofits are displaying. My client, like many nonprofits, had been saying for years “we’ve got to reimagine our special events.” Yet, despite numerous conversations, they kept hosting the same events year-in and year-out. Having to abruptly shut down and move into shelter-in-place hastened the needed change.

My client quickly pivoted and for its first new event, hosted a Night at the Movies – something that never would have crossed anyone’s mind prior to these new circumstances. For this particular event, the primary goal was not about raising funds. My client simply wanted to break even financially while bringing people of all ages together in a fun, safe way.

Despite some stumbles (we forgot to ask the parking lot manager to turn off the lights after dark!) it worked beautifully. We sold out, had fun and even made a small profit. We had people asking if we’d do it again – one couple even asked us to host a movie every week! It had the added benefit of drawing new people to the organization: we were in a public parking lot in the West Loop and several pedestrians walking by stopped to ask about the event, and the organization.

Thinking of hosting your own drive-movie? Here are some tips to help you get started planning:

  1. Pick a fun, feel-good movie that audiences of all ages will enjoy. We showed The Incredibles and drew families with young children, as well as young adults all the way up to senior citizens.
  2. Secure a public parking lot, large enough to allow for spacing in between cars and a section for safe spacing of walk-up attendees. We allowed cars to park in every other parking space at the direction of a cadre of volunteers. We also cordoned off a section where individuals who walked in could space themselves at least six-feet apart.
  3. Ensure the lights are turned off when the movie begins!
  4. Invite some food trucks to park on-site – you’ll offer great food to guests and support local businesses.
  5. Stock up on movie theater boxes of candy, individual bags of popcorn, water bottles and Gatorade to sell at concessions. Glow necklaces are fun, too.
  6. Don’t forget the Porta-johns! We hired an attendant to clean each unit in between use.
  7. Have lots of hand sanitizer around.
  8. Of course, masks are a must! We were clear that people wouldn’t be admitted without one. And we had some for sale, branded with the organization’s logo of course.

Based on the success of its first drive-in movie night, my client is planning to host another later this summer. Maybe even two. And they’ll continue to reimagine their events in fun, safe, positive ways.

by: Molly Galo, Senior Consultant HPS Chicago

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