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Drive-in movie theater plans for St. Pete scrubbed in the post-Covid era

Veronica Brezina



Rooftop Cinema Club operated a pop-up drive-in near Armature Works in Tampa from October through December 2020. Photo: Rooftop Cinema Club

A drive-in movie theater that would be created with shipping containers is no longer envisioned for the Warehouse Arts District. 

California-based Rooftop Cinema Club planned to construct a drive-in, with a 64-foot projection screen at 2100 3rd Ave. South. It was expected to open this year; however, the change of consumer behavior in a post-Covid world has led to the decision to hit the pause button.  

“With people returning to in-person events in cities around the country, our drive-in theatre program is suffering. Although this great American institution saved our business last year, things have changed drastically this year in terms of its popularity and we’ve been forced to close most of our locations and, unfortunately, do not believe it is a sustainable business for the future,” Rooftop CEO Gerry Cottle said in a letter to planners.

“With this in mind, Rooftop Cinema Club has decided not to move forward with plans for a pop-up drive-in in St. Petersburg, as discussed with Place Projects.”

During the pandemic, Rooftop Cinema Club opened “pop-up” drive-ins, as a safe, socially-distanced form of public entertainment – in numerous American cities, many on under-utilized rooftop spaces.

The company had a pop-up at Armature Works in Tampa, which closed after two months in late 2020. 

The temporary drive-in site in St. Pete was planned to have concessions provided through a local vendor, a potential bar, restrooms and a viewing area that could accommodate more than 150 vehicles.

Six months ago, Rooftop Cinema theater received the green light to move forward with the plans despite debate on how the proposed temporary drive-in movie theater should or shouldn’t undergo the same infrastructure requirements as a permanent development. 

In his letter to planners, Cottle said Rooftop will continue to think about possible ways to use the property in a beneficial way for the community, as it goes through the zoning process.

Joe Furst, the founder of Place Projects, is working with Cottle. 

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1 Comment

1 Comment

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    November 28, 2021at12:26 pm

    I would think that this outdoor drive-in is perfect, EXPECIALLY with the concern of COVID and the uncertain path it seems to be taking.
    DO NOT STOP THIS PROJECT…..Just another way to make St.Pete progressive and unique….young and old!
    Such wonderful memories of how ‘we’ seniors lived way back when.

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