The Gordon Outdoors mega-screen made its drive-in debut at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills Jewish Community Center on Gwynnbrook Avenue on Saturday, Sept. 12, and it was an opening night success.
The movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” drew 75 cars on the inaugural night.
Going forward, movies will be shown on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays through Nov. 21. Films will not be shown on the Jewish holidays. Films start at 8:30 p.m. in Sept., 8 p.m. starting in Oct. and 7:30 p.m. starting in Nov.
The 52 x 26-foot movie screen structure rests on the exterior wall of The Peggy and Yale Gordon Center for Performing Arts, and the new venue can accommodate up to 170 vehicles with unobstructed views for a drive-in experience complete with in-car streaming audio (via radio or phone app) and a concession stand.
The cost per vehicle for Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC members is $22 and for nonmembers, $27.
“It’s something that we were hoping to do earlier this summer, but we had to get all the licensing from the county and everybody to sign off on and the construction had a little bit of a delay because of some rain, but we wanted to do it right,” said JCC senior marketing director Robin Rose-Samuels. “It’s like a serious piece of construction on our outside wall.”
Rose-Samuels said the center is feeling out how people respond to the film series. “I think we are probably going to grow more as the word gets out more,” she said.
The idea for the mega-screen stemmed from the success of an online film festival.
“We do a Jewish Film Festival every year and this year we had to pivot and make it a virtual film festival,” Rose-Samuels said. “We sold almost as many tickets as we would in the theater to people, not just from Baltimore but other places in the world, other countries and other states.”
When restrictions from the pandemic began to be lifted, so were the spirits of the JCC team.
“We wanted to be able to provide an experience where people could come together during this pandemic in a safe way,” Rose-Samuels said.
They also had to make sure they provided a safe environment.
“We had to look at all the COVID rules to make sure that was all followed so there was a lot that went into it and we really, really covered our bases,” Rose-Samuels said.
Among the COVID-19 measures providing a safe environment included: tickets must be purchased in advance; masks are required and first stop is a medical screening where everyone in the vehicle gets a temperature check; tickets will be scanned or scanned on your phone.
In addition, concessions will not be self-service, hand sanitizing stations are available around the snack bar and at the doorway to the restrooms and all employees are required to undergo a health screening at the beginning of every shift.
Sara Shalva, the chief arts officer for the JCC of Greater Baltimore, sees the mega-screen as more then a movie attraction.
“We don’t see the big screen in the parking lot as just a drive-in movie theater,” said Shalva in press release. “We imagine we will have an outdoor experience where we can live-stream concerts, theater, even b’nai mitzvah and weddings. Families can hold their ceremonies in the lobby or auditorium, and guests can watch from the parking lot.”
Shalva was aided by JCC board member Jon Mayers and Gordon Center Theater manager and technical director Peter Michaelson, as well as JCC CEO, Barak Hermann, who came up with the outdoor venue mega-screen concept.
Mayers had the vision to make sure the screen would be built safely and efficiently, and Michaelson oversaw the project from design to permits.
Plans are for the screen to be used after the movie season is over, and it will be available for groups that want to live-stream events inside for visitors to watch on the screen from the parking lot.