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Covid Halloween: San Fernando Valley Drive-In Nights & LA Zoo

The seventh installment of Covid Halloween looks at the advantage of enjoying onscreen scares from the safety of your car.

Drive-in movies have become popular during the Covid-19 pandemic, offering a safe alternative to sitting among strangers in an enclosed cinema. On top of that, the closure of several major Halloween Events has left Los Angeles fright fans starved for entertainment – a hunger that drive-ins are trying to satisfy by screening outdoor horror movies in October.

San Fernando Valley Drive-In Nights is one of these; however, this is no fly-by-night pop-up cashing in on a trend; actually, the drive-in is in its fourth year of operation, having recently moved from the Lake Balboa Complex to the Westfield Fashion Square Mall in Sherman Oaks. Its summer series was severely abbreviated by the pandemic (only two nights in September), but the Fall Halloween series is going full-steam ahead, and they have extended their reach to the Los Angeles Zoo, where they will present a second series of films.

Presented by My Valley Pass (the official visitors guide to San Fernando Valley entertainment and nightlife), Halloween Drive-In Nights will take place on two weekends this month, featuring a quartet of double bills, culled mostly from the ’80s and ’90s, which should provide something for everyone: Edward Scissorhands and Pet Sematary on October 16; Labyrinth and Child’s Play on October 17; Casper and Poltergeist on October 23; and Hotel Transylvania and Scream on October 24.

L.A. Zoo Drive-In Movie Nights will take place at the Los Angeles Zoo, featuring three themed weekends:

  • Animal Adventures: Dr. Dolittle on October 16, Zootopia on October 17, Rise of the Planet of the Apes on October 18.
  • The Brilliant Betty White: The Lorax on October 24, Lake Placid on October 25.
  • Hair-Raising Halloween: Goosebumps on October 30, The Addams Family (animated) on October 31, and Poltergeist on November 1. This final weekend will include decorations, costumes, seasonal food, and other Halloween treats.

Halloween Drive-In Nights is a rarity this season, an established event that needs little reconfiguring to meet pandemic safety standards. Hollywood Gothique interviewed Oscar Urrutia of My Valley Pass about what audiences can expect.

Hollywood Gothique: How did My Valley Pass come to be offering a seasonal drive-in event?

Oscar Urrutia: We have been doing our shows for 4 years in a row and were the pioneers in pop-up drive-ins. This year we have added more shows due to the demand, and we are is teaming up with the LA Zoo to continue our series into the holiday season.

Hollywood Gothique: Did you see an opening in the marketplace this year due to the closure of venues like the Egyptian and the New Beverly that tend to run horror marathons in October?

Oscar Urrutia: There has always been a need to bring back the drive-in experience, especially in the San Fernando Valley. We are giving a generation a chance to experience it while providing a nostalgic way for the older generation to relive it. This year is more important, since so many other Halloween events were canceled and people are wanting to do something fun and safe.

Hollywood Gothique: Your double bills mix kid-friendly stuff with scarier films. (Presumably this is why you offer single-film ticket options.) What guided your selection of titles?

Oscar Urrutia: We want to ensure people of all ages enjoy our shows, so going with family movies for the first screening and classic horror for the second has been a great recipe for us. All our shows sell out quickly, since we plan them out far ahead and put on a great show.

Hollywood Gothique: How did you go about planning your event to take into account the need for social distancing, etc?

Oscar Urrutia: We have always been known for having the cleanest event space, including our restrooms, so not much has changed. This year we are not allowing food trucks and other added bonuses, to ensure there are no gathering areas. Instead, we are working with the mall’s food court to deliver to the event area, and Cupid’s Hot Dogs is running our snack bar, along with having fresh popcorn.

Hollywood Gothique: How would Halloween Drive-In Nights have been different if not facing these restrictions?

Oscar Urrutia: Our shows would be the same, since we don’t have time for adding more elements when showing two movies each night. All of our entertainment is on the screen to keep people safe and occupied during their entire time with us. The only difference this year is our half-time show between each movie. Last year we had our guests play Super Mario Kart on the big screen which was a huge hit.

This Halloween, there are several pop-up drive-ins. What would you say to audiences wondering what they will get from yours that they might get from others?

Oscar Urrutia: We have set the bar high for other locations to copy. We use the largest screen on the west coast with the best projector and FM transmitter possible. Guests have come to respect all of our hard work and look forward to our shows. We do this for them, and it’s a great feeling to know they appreciate it and notice what we do.

Unfortunately, advance tickets to San Fernando Valley Halloween Drive-In Nights are sold out; visit myvalleypass.com for more information. Tickets to LA Zoo Movie Nights are still available; get more info at: lazoo.org/movies. San Fernando Valley Halloween Drive-In Nights is reviewed here.

Steve Biodrowski, Administrator

A graduate of USC film school, Steve Biodrowski has worked as a film critic, journalist, and editor at Movieline, Premiere, Le Cinephage, The Dark Side., Cinefantastique magazine, Fandom.com, and Cinescape Online. He is currently Managing Editor of Cinefantastique Online and owner-operator of Hollywood Gothique.