As far as Beacon Theatre owner Charlie Watzke is concerned, “The show must go on!”
“I’m gonna go ahead and do a temp drive-in tonight” in the Beacon’s parking lot with a portable screen and an FM transmitter, Watzke said Tuesday. “It’s free tonight, we just want people to buy our concessions. There’s going to be a cartoon to start. I don’t know what movies I’m gonna do. I’ll probably start with ‘Grease’ tonight.”
Watzke said the show will begin around dusk, some time between 7:30 and 8 p.m.
“As soon as its dark enough,” he said. “I can’t get (the projector) adjusted until it’s dark,” so the first night may get off to an awkward start
After Tuesday, though, “We’ll start doing regular shows,” Watzke said. “We’re going to charge $5 per head across the board. A couple of my (theatre-owner) friends are doing $20 for a vehicle, but I think that’s too much. Some cars may just have one or two people in them.”
Watzke temporarily shut down the Beacon in mid-March in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and Gov. Tate Reeves’ “shelter-in-place” order, which listed theaters as “non-essential” businesses.
Watzke and his family have owned theaters — both indoor and drive-in — for the past three generations. His brother owns a drive-in in Ocala, Fla., which recently earned national recognition for giving residents there a safe entertainment option in the age of the COVID shutdown.
He began his drive to open a temporary drive-in in mid-April, but the city of Waveland wouldn’t let him.
“The issue is, the order that the governor put out included movie theaters — both inside and outside — as a non-essential business,” Waveland Mayor Mike Smith said at the time. “It’s not that we don’t want it — I think it would be a cool idea. But I can’t do less than what the governor puts out, because that would contradict his order.”
Technically, Watzke said, the city still hasn’t signed off on his plan. However, Reeves has since modified the “Shelter in Place” plan to “Safer at Home,” allowing non-essential businesses a little more latitude to operate, although they must follow social distancing and hygiene guidelines.
“The last time I spoke with the governor’s office, they said it was okay with them if the mayor was okay with it,” Watzke said. “Mike posted on Facebook that he would love to see it, so I’m going for it. I need the money and the people in this town need some place to go.”
Beacon Theatre is located behind McDonald’s in Waveland. For more, call 228-342-1346 or check out Beacon Theatres on Facebook.