By Yaromir Steiner
In early March 2020, the United States ceased non-essential business to combat the spread of COVID-19. At Easton Town Center in Columbus, this meant retailers would temporarily close their doors, and a wide array of iconic, family-friendly events—memorable experiences that our center is famous for—would be canceled.
As our team brainstormed ways to reopen safely, the idea arose of creating a drive-in movie theater on our ample parking lot space. We sprang into action, and less than two weeks later, the Sunset Drive-In Theater was hosting its first screening.
Creating a fully functioning drive-in theater experience out of nothing is quite difficult on its own, but to do it in just ten days takes fast and frugal focus—and that’s exactly what the Easton team did. We rented LED projection screens, hired labor, and teamed up with center restaurants to deliver food straight to guests’ cars as they watched the films.
The Sunset Drive-In was created to provide people with a fun and safe experience, at a time when everything was shut down and everyone was isolated in their homes. While ticket prices are set at $10 per car, 100% of the proceeds go to the Easton Community Foundation to support local nonprofits, making it an evening of great fun with a purpose.
From a safety perspective, cars are properly spaced out, and guests can either stay in their vehicle or sit outside on the driver’s side so they can be physically distanced from others. Additionally, we enacted a bring-your-own-trash-bag policy to lessen potential exposure of the virus.
The result of our initiative came in the form extremely positive community sentiment. The first four movie showings sold out, and the others continue to do so. Approximately 2,260 cars have attended the drive-in thus far, generating more than $20,000 for charity.
The Sunset Drive-In was so successful that Easton Town Center, and tenant AMC Easton 30, are exploring ways to bring it back next summer.
The Focus on Experience Never Stops
The Sunset Drive-In isn’t the only way Easton is providing the gift of experience to guests post-COVID. To further the proliferation of safe and engaging entertainment at Easton, the team continues to explore the addition of drive-in, drive-up and drive-through events. For example:
- Easton hosted a drive-thru Easter Bunny event in May so kids and their parents could still keep their holiday tradition of visiting the Easter Bunny alive. The event brought in 600 cars to the town center.
- Local artists have been commissioned to paint small, whimsical scenes in unexpected places throughout the town center, bringing a smile to passersby or those who take notice.
- Artists have also taken over an empty tenant space and turned it into an art installation, complete with mural paintings, which are currently underway. We will further activate the space this summer with fun and engaging pop up attractions.
Our team looks forward to continuing to evolve and deliver creative solutions to better serve our consumers safely and effectively during COVID-19.