Hollywood Evolves During Pandemic With Drive-In Premiere

It beat a traditional, more buttoned-up red carpet event, Dave Franco said.

Dave Franco says the drive-in premiere for his directorial debut was "perfect" but admittedly "a little weird."

The 35-year-old actor found himself at the center of Hollywood’s evolving response to the coronavirus pandemic Thursday as he premiered his directorial debut "The Rental" to more than 1,300 people at the Vineland drive-in theatre in Southern California.

Joined by stars including wife Alison Brie, Dan Stevens and Sheila Vand, he took off his mask to pose for photographers in the center of a massive parking lot, then answered questions via Zoom from his car after the film ended.

It beat a traditional, more buttoned-up red carpet event, Franco said.

"It didn’t feel like there was a spotlight on me or the cast. It felt more like this communal experience where everyone was just excited to get out of their homes and, you know, let loose with a group of fellow movie lovers. It was perfect," he said in an interview Friday.

Franco says Brie calmed him down about the shortcomings of an outdoor screening: patchy audio over the FM radio and ambient light drowning out darker sections of his horror thriller "The Rental."

"Trust me, it is not what I do. I am a crazy perfectionist. I annoy everyone around me because I won’t stop until it’s perfect. And so it was hard for me to let go, but it was nice having Alison next to me — she forced me to let go," he said.

His movie is set to be released via video-on-demand and at drive-ins and traditional theaters on July 24. But the nation's largest theater chains have been adjusting their reopening plans regularly in response to health officials. Franco says that like many in Hollywood, he's tracking Christopher Nolan’s "Tenet," scheduled for release July 31.

"Obviously that’s the giant movie that everyone’s focused on and that all the theaters are really trying to open in time for that film. So we’ve just been kind of stepping back and monitoring ... If they’re not opening for 'Tenet,' they ain’t opening for us. ... I’m happy to creep behind Christopher Nolan all day"

Franco is hoping to hold another premiere event closer to the film’s release — maybe even in a traditional theater. There’s something about the big screen.

"Just seeing how many people are flocking to drive-ins around the country, it just proves that the movie-going experience is so special," Franco said. "There’s a lot of talk about the future of film being mainly digital. But I think right now we’re really seeing how much people love going to the movies."


Associated Press videojournalist Marcela Isaza contributed to this report.

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