The outbreak of COVID-19 has opened our eyes to the things we’ve taken for granted, like going to see a movie. With state and federal governments extending stay-home orders, many families are at a loss when it comes to keeping their children and themselves safely entertained. Likewise, many businesses are unsure how to keep moving forward amongst the pandemic. Teton Vu Drive-In in Rexburg, Idaho, has found ways to keep their business going while also becoming a solution for people with cabin fever.
At the beginning of April, following the initial stay home mandate given by Governor Little, the state of Idaho issued additional guidance for drive-in movies and churches. As long as the social distancing requirements were followed at all times, drive-in theaters like Teton Vu would be allowed to show movies to audiences.
The first showing the theater had was a double feature of “Trolls: World Tour” and “Sonic the Hedgehog” on April 10. The turnout was exceptional as many people were eager to get out of their houses, see a movie on a big screen, and support a fun, local business. Approximately 200 cars were in attendance. Due to the successful weekend, the theater has decided to temporarily open during the weekdays to accommodate the number of people who are excited to attend a movie.
Tickets for the movies must be purchased online to follow the state mandate. This helps prevent contact between guests and employees touching cash and cards. The diner at the drive-in theater is also temporarily closed to avoid having multiple people in common facilities, and the theater is waiving its $2 per adult fee/voucher for bringing in outside food. This fee allows people to bring in their own food and then encourages them to use the voucher in the diner. The diner is expected to open in the next few weeks. Until then, people are encouraged to purchase snacks from the Paramount 5 theater in town to help support both locations.
Paramount 5 has not been showing movies due to the COVID-19 crisis, but their concessions are open for carry-out and delivery from 6 to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday. You can also purchase gift cards or purchase bulk popcorn during this time. If you are staying home to enjoy a movie of your own, consider stopping by to pick up the movie snacks you’ve been craving, like popcorn, frozen lemonade, and funnel cake fries. If you are going to see a movie at the drive-in, stop by the Paramount on your way to stock up on all your favorite snacks.
Gates for the movies open depending on when it gets dark, so be sure to check the Teton Vu website for times and gate openings each week. The spots, however, are always first-come, first-serve. The first movie doesn’t start until 8:30, but the wait is worth it for a spot closer to the screen. During the time you are waiting for the movie to begin, you should figure out how to turn off your headlights and tune-in to the correct radio station to hear the movies. The station they use to broadcast the movie audio is 107.7 FM.
To help ensure that their guests meet the social distancing requirements, Teton Vu employees help see that all vehicles park six feet apart. Guests can also sit in lawn chairs outside their vehicle, or lay in a truck bed, as long as they remain in the six-foot stall apart from other vehicles. Teton Vu does ask that guests remain socially distant during the duration of the films unless they must use the restroom. There are portable restrooms available for guests to use, though they should limit their need to leave their vehicles to use them. An attendant oversees the restrooms to make sure they are regularly sanitized.
So far, the movies they have shown and plan to show have included “Trolls: World Tour,” “Sonic the Hedgehog,” and “Call of the Wild.” Since many new movies have held their release until the end of COVID-19, the theater is searching for movies to show until then. People planning on attending the theater in upcoming weeks can expect to see movies that were recently released in theaters that they can show again. Even if you’ve already seen a movie that they are showing, you are sure to have a great time leaving your home and still safely watching a movie...on a screen much bigger than the one in your living room.
Teton Vu does have some rules that they ask their patrons to follow, during a pandemic or not. These rules include no grills, no drugs, alcohol or smoking, and no saving spots for other cars. They also ask that you drive slowly while on the premises to avoid any accidents and that larger vehicles park in the back to allow smaller cars a better view of the screen. You can bring your pets, as long as they are well-behaved and on a leash.
During normal circumstances, the drive-in and its diner are open on the weekends from about March until October, depending on the weather. The diner has more than just your typical movie snacks—it also has burgers, salads, ice cream, and sides like nachos, mozzarella sticks, and jalapeño poppers. People can munch on their snacks from the comfort of their vehicles or lawn chairs while enjoying a double feature. Between movies, you’ll see people milling about, stretching their legs, using the restroom, and stocking up on more snacks. Although these aren’t things we can enjoy yet, the Teton Vu Drive-In has done a magnificent job bringing a sense of normalcy to people in Eastern Idaho.
Teton Vu hopes that as changes are announced they will be able to begin reducing restrictions. Until then, they want to keep creating balance to life in a safe environment, but they can’t do it alone. They rely on patrons to keep and follow the instructions put in place and to have patience with their staff. So far, the feedback from audiences has been generally positive, which motivates the staff and encourages more people to come and enjoy the experience.
Even during a pandemic, it’s amazing to see communities band together to support businesses and enjoy a classic evening of watching a movie on the big screen. Since 1955, the Teton Vu drive-in and diner has been blessing guests with a wonderful, retro experience. Teton Vu has done an incredible job enforcing the social distancing rules so that guests can be safely entertained. They have maintained their goal of “creating an atmosphere where people come out and enjoy themselves with their friends and families” even during a hard time. If you are dying to leave your house and watch a show, Teton Vu is the place to go!