It’s an old spin on the new normal, where nostalgia meets now. The show that brought the Wilburns out tonight is happening in the parking lot of a Walmart supercenter on the last day of September. It’s part of Walmart’s Drive-In movie series, eight tours covering 160 locations and offering 303 shows to some 40,000 guests in more than 12,000 vehicles.
Long before tonight’s show begins (Men in Black: International), the lot is full, guests having made reservations online within minutes of the event posting. There's no charge, a goodie bag filled with treats, a classic choice between water or a soft drink, plus a screen the size of a football field -- well, at least the whole end zone.
“From the minute the pandemic hit and the world changed, we started to think about what our role is in the world,” said Rich Lehrfeld, who was heavily involved in shepherding this idea from whiteboard to reality. “As a company, we made changes to make our stores safer, to help our associates, to meet our customers’ needs. But we also asked the question, what’s happening to families? During this time, how can we add joy?”
Two nights later, the tour has arrived in Tupelo, Mississippi, where the weather is every bit as good as it was in Arkansas.
A family from Saltillo, Mississippi, enjoys the fresh air through open windows. “Is this gonna be a thing again?” attendee Jennifer Byars asks an associate walking by. She’s informed there’s a movie the next night, which results in cheers from the SUV. She and her husband, Gene, along with their children Alexis, 8, and Lynlee, 11, now have plans for Saturday night. “This is a great idea,” Jennifer says. “We’re really digging the snacks, too. We didn’t know we’d be getting snacks! A free movie AND snacks!”