WAIPOULI — Chris Shiira was driving home when she saw the big screen planted between the coconut trees along Kuhio Highway fronting the Coconut Marketplace.
The scene caused her to pull off the highway in order for her to further investigate the new growth and get photographs of the scene.
“I couldn’t believe what I saw,” she said. “This is so innovative. No, I’m not staying to watch the movie, but I had to check this out. It’s so good because there are so many people who are dying for something to do to get out of the house. Innovation is what we need during these times.”
The drive-in format marked the reopening of the Coconut Marketplace’s free family movie night program following a period of closure due to COVID-19 guidelines and rules.
“This is the first time we’re doing this,” said Dan Metsch, representing the vendor that provides the free movie night event for the Coconut Marketplace. “We kept tweaking this and, finally, we thought we’d give it a shot.”
A portion of the west end of the parking lot was roped off for movie fans, and to take social distancing into consideration, each parking stall was marked off, allowing parking in every other stall. Audio from the movie was delivered through a designated FM station into the movie-goer’s car.
“It’s not as much as the 200 people we used to show in the central park area,” said a parking-lot attendant. “We can only accomodate 50 or 60 cars, and it’s free. People can’t wait until last minute. They need to come early, get their dinner, and settle in, or there’ll be no space. Once we sell out, we have to turn people away.”
Tania Moniz was one of those early arrivals, nailing a good spot and enjoying a pre-movie meal with her family.
“I didn’t know about this,” she said. “I kept calling and they didn’t know if it was going to be a drive-in or the regular movie. I just packed up the family and the kids are all excited. They’re having a Bobby V’s dinner and can’t wait for the movie to start.”
Walt Disney’s “Frozen 2” was the night’s attraction, getting the attention of a number of children.
“This is good,” said Willy Estenzo, who had his family settling in the back of the pickup. “I heard about it when I was at The Home Depot, and I knew the kids would get excited. My grandson was waiting for this movie. I think this is the first time we have a drive-in movie on Kaua‘i. This is really good. I hope they keep it up.”
Robbie Melton, the new director for Small Business Development Center, also got through the confusion, moving her car into a vantage spot.
“I’ve got to order my dinner before the movie starts,” she said, eye-balling the eateries touting their offerings. “This is good because there are so many people looking for things to do, and with the closing of the theater, people can get excited about going to the movies again.”
Metsch said he’ll consider doing this again if attendees are cooperative.
“We’ve been looking this over,” he said. “We have a new game plan where we can possibly get more cars in. We’ll see. People need to behave.”
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.