Michael Holloway

Presenting Milwaukee’s First Drive-In Movie Pop-up

Parking Lot Theatre will hold debut film screening 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Menomonee Valley.

By - May 27th, 2020 04:47 pm
Parking Lot Theatre.

Parking Lot Theatre.

Back when COVID-19-related shutdowns were beginning to become a reality for Wisconsinites, local entrepreneurs Anne Koller and Manny Lara saw untapped potential in an empty parking lot. Looking to answer the question of how they could bring the community together safely while also supporting Milwaukee arts, Koller and Lara began to brainstorm.

“We were seeing what was happening with restaurants and the entertainment business,” Lara says. “We were concerned about the impact it would have on socialization and mental health and we wanted to try to keep the community together.”

The result: an event series that incorporates live entertainment, local businesses and community gathering.

Parking Lot Theatre — Milwaukee’s first “Pop-Up” drive-in movie experience — will hold its debut film screening at 7:30 p.m. this Friday, May 29, in the Menomonee Valley. The inaugural event will be held at the parking lot located at 701 W. St. Paul Ave. — an opportunity made available thanks to a partnership with Interstate Parking.

“We thought, ‘How could we get artists to participate and have a drive-in in the city where that usually doesn’t happen,’” says Koller, who grew up in Milwaukee’s Midtown neighborhood and has always wondered why drive-ins only happen in the suburbs.

As movie-goers begin to park at around 7:30 p.m., local musician Joe Wray will be performing live on site. Attendees can tune into Wray’s performance in their vehicles via FM radio — which will also be used to broadcast the film’s audio. Guests can order food at this time through the CashDrop app, where Sobelman’s Pub & Grill — which has a location just up the road — will have a menu posted. The whole process ensures that no one will have to leave their cars — volunteers will be present to bring food orders to each vehicle. Once everyone is settled in, Mask Up MKE — which will be providing 100 free masks for the event — will open with a public service announcement on public safety, followed by the feature film of the night. While the movie has not yet been announced, Koller and Lara promise it will be a PG-rated, family-friendly flick.

It’s all about creating “an ecosystem of entertainment, family-friendly activities, community and safety,” says Lara.

If all goes well, Koller and Lara hope to eventually offer employment opportunities for parking lot or food delivery attendants as they begin planning more events and connecting with more partners and sponsorships. Currently, Parking Lot Theatre is being funded almost entirely out of pocket. But with summer festivals constantly being canceled or postponed, the duo has their eyes on some spaces that won’t be getting much attention anytime soon, but would be great for safely enjoying a movie with your neighbors.

“This is different than just a drive-in movie,” Lara says. “It focuses on the Milwaukee community entirely so we’re trying to incorporate a lot of other elements. It can create something bigger.”

Tickets for the event are $25 per car and can be purchased here. For more information on Parking Lot Theatre, visit the website at parkinglottheatre.com. For more information on the inaugural event, visit the Facebook event page.

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