The hottest ticket in New York City this summer?
That would be movie screenings in a Queens restaurant’s parking lot, where scoring tickets is now a competitive sport.
With quarantine making most real-life gatherings illegal, getting into the al fresco shows at Astoria’s Bel Aire Diner lot involves repeatedly hitting refresh on the eatery’s website — and likely disappointment.
“Good luck — my friend tried to go last week. They sell out super fast,” my housemate warned.
She was right: I might as well have been trying to score seats for a huge new band in pre-coronavirus times. The words “SOLD OUT” appeared on my screen before I even saw the option to buy.
No doubt about it, the drive-in, recently considered a vestige of mid-20th century Americana, is now in the midst of a wheel-to-reel revival.
“We’re like the Beatles now,” says Kal Dellaportas, Bel Aire’s manager, where tickets for the most recent drive-in movie on Thursday night sold out in “under a minute.”
The Bel Aire only has room for 45 socially distanced cars in the lot adjacent to its restaurant, making its now regular screenings hyper-exclusive. Patrons pay $32 a vehicle to attend and can order diner food to their car. For every bag of popcorn sold, the diner feeds two first responders. Screenings, which are weather-dependent, are only scheduled about a week out, says Dellaportas, with new shows announced on the diner’s Instagram account and ticketing done through its website.
“They ask the make and model of your car, so everyone has a clear view,” says Margaret, a 60-year-old Middle Village resident who attended Bel Aire’s screening of “The Sandlot” last Saturday with her husband and declined to share her last name. The screening was a welcome, if surreal, reprieve for the New Yorker, who has been under strict quarantine since the start of the pandemic.
“Sitting there watching a movie we had seen in the past, it just brought us down memory lane,” Margaret tells The Post.
Since New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave drive-ins the green light to reopen earlier this month, established open-air theaters — including the Warwick in Warwick, NY, and Four Brothers in Amenia, NY — and eager organizations with lot access have begun announcing movie nights across Long Island and upstate. And cooped-up New Yorkers are ready to press auto-play on the socially distanced — and suitably nostalgic — form of entertainment.
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