A pop-up drive-in theater will offer free weekly movies in Moscow starting this Saturday courtesy of the University of Idaho, the Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre and the city of Moscow.

UI Director of Administrative Operations Jeremy Barron said every Saturday for the next four weeks, a reasonably new movie will be shown in the parking lot of the ASUI-Kibbie Activity Center. Before joining forces, Barron said the UI, the city and the Kenworthy were all individually investigating the possibility of erecting a local drive-in theater and it just made sense to pool their efforts.

“You had three different entities thinking the same thing at the same time and then as each of us individually started planning something we realized that we would be better off if we just all collaborated on it,” Barron said. “We’re trying to do what we can to provide a safe entertainment option for the community and for our students.”

Barron said numerous other entities donated to make the project a reality. In addition to the resources contributed by organizers, Barron said others are donating vital supplies including portable restrooms and a generator. He said rather than using a projector like most movie theaters, the UI will erect a large LCD screen that is about 25 feet wide at its base and about 15 feet tall — the top edge of the screen will be about 30 feet in the air. For comparison, screens in conventional movie theaters are usually about 45 to 65 feet wide and as tall as 30 feet.

Moscow Deputy City Supervisor Tyler Palmer said the venue will be arranged to allow for 140 cars to be spaced 12 feet apart — or double the distance recommended by health agencies for social distancing. He said attendees will be given an FM radio station to tune into the sound for the movies in their cars or through various phone apps.

The movies are free, he said, but warned attendance will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. The doors will open at 7 p.m. and the movies will begin at 8 p.m., he said.

Palmer said he expects the weekly movie nights will bring some psychological relief to a community that has been under strain since social distancing orders first came in effect in mid-March.

“It’s a time when everybody is really needing a distraction and wanting some sort of semblance of normalcy,” he said. “We think that this will be a fun way to harken back to yesteryear but in a way that you can safely bring people together.”

The first movie that will be shown in the Kibbie Dome parking lot this Saturday will be “Yesterday.” The 2019 follows a struggling musician who wakes up in a world where the Beatles never existed, and then finds fame by producing their hits as his own.

Palmer said the outdoor venue has also been tapped to serve another purpose: drive-in graduation ceremonies for local schools. He said so far, multiple schools, including Moscow High School, have already signed up to hold their July commencement ceremonies at the spot.

Moscow Superintendent Greg Bailey said the district considered numerous strategies for conducting graduation, including postponement, and found that this option fit their needs best.

“This won’t allow them to be right next to each other and so forth, that’s just not in the cards right now, unfortunately,” he said. “But it does get to recognize the kids — and I have heard rumors that maybe the parents that typically do this senior fun night may do some type of like barbecue or something like that later on if all the restrictions are lifted.”

Scott Jackson can be reached by email to sjackson@dnews.com.

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