If you build it, they will come.
The phrase is as relentlessly true as ever in 2020. For the creator of a small, private drive-in theater in Ocean View, however, public response to his creation has been overwhelming.
When he first set out to make the 192-square-foot screen, David Joslin envisioned a place where a handful of his family and friends could, for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic, safely enjoy a movie night together. In just the past week, word on social media of opening night has reached every corner of Hawaii Island, with one post in particular shared nearly 400 times.
“I just didn’t expect so many people to be interested in it,” Joslin said. “I thought it was just going to be a family night on Sunday night, but it’s turned into way more than that.”
Once word of the drive-in got out, it spread around the Orchid Isle like wildfire, and the increased attention prompted Joslin to bring in help in the form of Ray Sundstrom to handle some of the logistics. Tonight, the drive-in will host its first showing, projecting the “Nightmare Before Christmas” on the 12- by 16-foot screen as audio is transmitted via FM radio into the viewers’ vehicles.
As of Wednesday, Sundstrom and Joslin have invited about 20 families to see the movie, and will limit attendees to only those invited. Consistent with the overarching concern in seemingly everything in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic factors significantly into their decision of keeping the event on the small Ocean View lot a private one.
“We’re very cognizant of not wanting to create some place that’s a disease vector, quite frankly,” Sundstrom said. “Keeping the crowd size in control, keeping an effective management of social distancing really argues towards it not being ‘come one, come all.’ If somebody driving by on a Friday night sees the ‘Movie Night’ neon sign, and they’re just going to pull in? We’re not going to necessarily be able to accommodate that.”
“It seems like people think it’s open to the public when, in fact, it’s a private event,” Joslin added.
Dealing with the response has been Joslin’s biggest challenge so far. Though turning people away was never his intention, the enormous current demand for a drive-in on the island, now too big for the small lot to fill, is clear.
He and Sundstrom are, however, committed to the spot becoming a venue for entertainment within the community. Plans are underway, with help from the Ocean View community, to build a full, multi-platform stage for live performances. Sundstrom leads the Ocean View Theater Club group, and he hopes the spot can turn into a focal point for theater and other live performances, in addition to movie showings, moving forward.
“We’re going to curate and organize a Friday family movie night and then as we can get more folks involved and get our operational chops down, we’ll probably have a Saturday movie and other live performing arts, as we can have the facility and the wherewithal to bring them on,” Sundstrom said. “There’s a myriad of details to work out, but we have a clear intention for what we want to do.”