Quarantining, social isolation, being unable to go out on a Friday – overall, the cultural and social scene has been quite heavily hit by the Covid-19 crisis. Clubs, restaurants, concert promoters seem to be a big part of the industries which have been hit by the current situation.
On the other side, it feels that one part of entertainment is nearly reincarnating: with some alternations to their business practice, drive-in cinemas fulfill all social distancing rules and thus are just booming in Germany. I visited the DRIVE IN Cologne, which is Germany’s third oldest drive in movies. Now that the city allowed them to open under certain conditions, practically all early evening shows have been sold out. I just had to take a visit there and tell you about my experience.
DRIVE IN Cologne – Location & Admission
The drive-in cinema is located in Porz-Gremberghoven, a district in the Southeast of Cologne. The connection by car is very comfortable: the Köln-Gremberghoven exit of the A559 is some two kilometers away. If you arrive from the Ruhrgebiet region or East Cologne boroughs, you likely connect via the A59 exit Rath, which however only connects from and to Cologne, not southbound (to/from Bonn).
Adult admission is 7 Euro per adult. Naturally, you have to buy tickets via the cinema’s website, as the space is limited by the number of cars, not by the human audience (see Covid-19 restrictions below). You may also buy tickets for ten visits – this is however not possible during the Corona crisis (see below). There is a gas station with a shop and a major supermarket right next to the place, which may help to stock up your supply.
DRIVE IN Cologne – The Visit
At the time of writing (April 2020), there were two movies per night. The early movie starts at 21:00 hrs, the later one at 23:45 hrs. The times obviously move with the sunset. The cinema opens its gates one hour prior the first movie – the guests for the second film are allowed to enter once the first movie has been cleared. During our visit, this was about 23:15 hrs. During Covid-19 times, the capacity is 250 cars, which is less than half of the normal capacity. The cinema upgrades the projectors, so that there were no issues in brightness and contrast during the show.
You are directed to a stopping lot by the staff, which is working very effective. Most of the slots are slightly uphill, so that you have a really good view of the 15 times 36 meters screen (which is of course, the largest cinema screen in Cologne). There are power plugs in case you want to rent a heater in winter or an FM transmitter in case you have radio / battery issues. The movie sound is transmitted by a radio frequency driven very locally by the cinema (you loose contact to it about half a kilometer after leaving the grounds). As some modern cars always have their lights on while on power, the staff puts blankets over the front – especially headlights can be very disturbing during the show. In the (not that likely) case that the movie kills your battery, the cinema of course offers help by starter kits.
After the movie is over, the staff removes potential light protective blankets from your car front – you then leave the venue through one of two exits, which feels to be very well organized.
DRIVE IN Cologne – Services and Covid-19 Adoptions
DRIVE In Cologne typically drives a food snack bar with typical movie services like popcorn, but also curry sausage and French Fries. In this snack bar area, where you can stock yourself before or during the film, you may also rent a heater or an FM transmitter (see above, transmitter free of charge). During the Covid-19 times, this whole area is closed. You are of course allowed to bring your own food with you in your car. Tailgating is not allowed, you are asked to stay inside your car, unless you have to service your car (e.g. cleaning the front window) or using the toilets, which were very clean and serviced with increased intensity. Furthermore, the cinema strictly limits the number of people in the bathrooms. Sanitary services for physically limited people are available.
Usually, the cinema shows quite up to date movies. One downside of the Corona crisis is that all other cinemas are closed and thus, there are no new movie releases currently. The cinema shows some nice selection. My wife and I visited Nightlife, a very entertaining 2019 German movie, which was a lot of fun. Examples for other movies they showed around Easter were Fast & Furious 7, The Grudge or The Joker. During the Covid-19 times, you likely need to care for your ticket only. In order to avoid contact to the staff, you may only buy the tickets online. You hold the QR code to your side window at entrance, through which it is scanned.
DRIVE IN Cologne – Other Events
During “normal” times, the wide space of the drive in cinema is also used for other occasions. A very popular one is the regular junk market. There is also a car sale market. Obviously, both are currently closed during the Covid-19 restrictions.
One very special event the cinema is hosting and which I was desperately hoping to cover with Flyctory.com somehow are two live concerts by the Cologne band Brings, who will play two shows on 17th and 18th April 2020. Though the promotion for the event was very limited, 7,000 people trying to get tickets for these events in the first seconds after release – which lead to a complete breakdown of their booking systems for several hours. The show is obviously sold out with two times 250 cars (ticket price per adult: roughly 30 Euro). The concert will be fully compliant to Covid-19 regulations – including that the band will use the FM transmission of the venue for the sound.
DRIVE IN Cologne – My View
The current Covid-19 situation really mentally touches me significantly – the more I was thankful for having a movie at the DRIVE IN Cologne cinema. The organisation is great, the atmopshere is classic, but not old-fashioned. We also did not experience any technical issues. It may not be as luxurious as TheEATre by Rhodes in Abu Dhabi, but it has a lot of nice amenities like the possibility to bring your own food or simply to be able to chat about the movie during the show, if you feel like it. I will definitely come back to the drive in movies in Cologne and maybe also to other locations (there are multiple pop up drive in movies which are either active or in construction around) – not only during the Covid-19 times. Loved it!
Postings about Cologne
Here are all postings about my home town Cologne: