Rediscovering drive-in movies for the Vice-Presidential debate

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Tupelo Music Hall provided a unique venue to watch Wednesday’s debate. Photo/Andrew Sylvia

DERRY, N.H. – Although it’s been slowly disappearing over the last few decades, the drive-in movie theater remains part of the American mythos. And thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s now becoming part of American political life as well.

On Wednesday, NextGen New Hampshire provided a drive-in debate watch party at Tupelo Music Hall, aiming to provide a way for people to watch the Vice-Presidential Debate with other people while maintaining social distancing.

NextGen New Hampshire Spokesperson Dan Bristol says the idea came from their colleagues in Maine, who have held politically-related drive-in movie events in the past. This was first in-person event NextGen New Hampshire has held since March and the first time they’ve tried the drive-in concept.

“For us it’s great even if we’re in our cars and separate, being able to watch (the debate) as a community,” said Bristol.

Between this event, and the rise of remote meeting tools, Bristol believes that the core of political organizing will remain even as methods for political organizing adapt to the pandemic. He also believes the pandemic has reminded regular Americans how significant politics are to their everyday lives.

“I think that this pandemic has taught us all a lot about the resilience that we have and we’re all seeing the way politics has an impact on our lives through the decisions of our leaders,” said Bristol.

Brigitte Keavey of Nashua says she watched the First Presidential Debate on her laptop, a far different experience than the one she expected to experience waiting for the debate on Wednesday. The trip to Tupelo was also a far different experience than other drive-in movies she’s been to in the past.

“This isn’t something we can go to just to zone out or escape, this is the future of our country for all of us as citizens,” said Keavey, a volunteer for NextGen. “This is different, I expect to be yelling at the screen far more than I would at a movie.”

State Representative Nicole Klein-Knight (D-Manchester) also noted how different the parking lot at Tupelo felt in the moments before the debate’s beginning in comparison to watching the debate at home.

“I was filled with dread from the last debate, but there certainly is different vibe here,” she said. “We’ve got our popcorn, and we’ve got (Senator Kamala Harris) who will shut that nonsense down.”

Tupelo also provides other non-political drive-in events, more information on that can be found at the Tupelo Music Hall website.


About this Author

Andrew Sylvia

Assistant EditorManchester Ink Link

Born and raised in the Granite State, Andrew Sylvia has written approximately 10,000 pieces over his career for outlets across Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. On top of that, he's a licensed notary and licensed to sell property, casualty and life insurance, he's been a USSF trained youth soccer and futsal referee for the past six years and he can name over 60 national flags in under 60 seconds according to that flag game app he has on his phone, which makes sense because he also has a bachelor's degree in geography (like Michael Jordan). He can also type over 100 words a minute on a good day.