If there’s one asset that any given Walmart has to its name, it’s typically a big-ass parking lot. And that wealth of parking space could become a valuable new tool in the mega retailer’s arsenal, as Walmart has announced it will begin operating a series of drive-in movie theaters across the country this summer. Starting in August, Walmart will be partnering with Tribeca to present … well, we’re not sure which films exactly, but we wouldn’t be expecting any Kurosawa retrospectives anytime soon.
The chain made the announcement directly via Twitter, as seen below:
This announcement comes as major theater chains such as AMC, Regal and Cinemark are delaying their reopening plans following the resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. The entire reopening process for these theater chains has been fraught with missteps and corrections, with chains like AMC initially announcing that masks would not be required, before changing their minds 24 hours later. Walmart presumably sensed some opportunity here, as drive-ins are seen as a safer way to replicate the “big screen” theatrical experience on a limited level, while also having an appealingly retro vibe.
The one segment that might stand to lose here would be independent, already operating drive-ins, however—it’s hard to imagine that your local drive-in theater (if you have one) will be happy about the Walmart next door suddenly stealing its thunder. It’s not yet clear if Walmart will intend to charge for these screenings, or whether they’ll simply use them as an opportunity to generate revenue from carside concessions. The move makes perfect sense, however—Walmart locations have these massive parking lots just laying around, and simply require a screen and broadcasting equipment to turn them into drive-ins. No other chain would be so perfectly suited to the task.
It will be interesting to see what kind of programming will be offered at these new theaters, and how widely Walmart intends to roll them out. We’ll bring you more information as it’s announced.