Where Can You Catch A Movie And Still Social Distance? At The Delta Tru Vu Drive-In, Of Course

April 20, 2020
Delta Drive In Movie Theatre Tru Vu Open During Stay At Home OrdersDelta Drive In Movie Theatre Tru Vu Open During Stay At Home OrdersStina Sieg/CPR News
April Hunger and her son, AJ, drove down from Grand Junction for opening night at the Tru Vu in Delta. AJ, 7, had been wanting to see “Sonic the Hedgehog” since long before the pandemic shut down all the movie theaters in the state.

It would have been a pretty ordinary scene in this western Colorado town of 9,000 — if anything was ordinary right now. But the state’s movie theaters have been closed since mid-March due to the danger of the coronavirus.

Opening night at the Tru Vu Drive-in in Delta was practically made for social distancing. Nearly 200 people pointed their cars, pickups and a few large RVs at the big, white screen and waited for the sky to darken.

“They came ready to party, didn’t they?” said April Hunger, who made the 30-mile trek down from Grand Junction. “They could have a dance party in there,” she said of the RVs.   

“They might have came from Alaska!” her 7-year-old son replied. 

Delta Drive In Movie Theatre Tru Vu Open During Stay At Home OrdersStina Sieg/CPR News
For the most part, people were playing by the rules opening night, staying in their cars, trucks or RVs at the Tru Vu in Delta to see “Sonic the Hedgehog.

The statewide “stay-at-home” order is set to expire on April 26. Coloradans have become antsy as they wait to see how the state will reopen. Even though the idea behind a drive-in movie is centered on your car, the Tru Vu still made changes because of COVID-19. Autos were evenly spaced, speakers weren’t given out over contamination worries and no one was allowed to be outside of their vehicle except for concession visits.

And if we’re honest, it felt a little weird to be there.

“Yeah, I keep feeling like we’re doing something wrong,” Hunger said with a laugh. “Doesn’t it feel like we’re doing something wrong? Are you 6 feet from me? Did we measure this?”

Sierra Findley, who lives there in Delta and is the oldest of four children, explained that even though she works, she’s home a lot. 

“Not being in school and, like, having all your friends, you’re, stuck with all your siblings,” the 17-year-old said as she shifted her voice into unmistakable sarcasm. “And it’s a joy.”

Delta Drive In Movie Theatre Tru Vu Open During Stay At Home OrdersStina Sieg/CPR News
Jim Lane, who operates Delta’s Tru Vu drive-in with his wife, Jane, said they wanted to give people something to do while much of the state is still under stay-at-home rules to help stop the spread of coronavirus. He estimates 150-200 people came to opening night to see “Sonic the Hedgehog.”

While there were many kids at the showing, there were plenty of adults, too. Cheryl and Doug Julian love drive-in movies and drove in from Grand Junction with their grown son. And between good-natured laughs, Cheryl said it also just felt good to do something kind of normal.

“It’s nice to get out and not sit in the house and still be safe.” 

To keep people safe, all Tru Vu employees wore a mask. The bathrooms were cleaned after each use. The snack bar had customers order and pick up at a window instead of inside. These tweaks are part of why the Delta County Health Department gave the drive-in the green light.

The department even had an employee keeping an eye on things that night. Keith Lucy had to tell a few people to get back in their cars and not to hang out in groups. But for the most part, he seemed impressed. 

“To have this many people out here, I think, sends a message that we’re going to get through this and we’re going to be OK,” he said.

Like any opening night, this one had its glitches. Before the movie could even start, the projector stopped working and people got restless.

“So I’ll just wait and see how everyone behaves,” Lucy said. And then, as if by cue, people started to howl from their cars. “Well, at least they’re having fun,” the county monitor said with a laugh.

Delta Drive In Movie Theatre Tru Vu Open During Stay At Home OrdersStina Sieg/CPR News
The snack bar at Delta’s Tru Vu drive-in, where regulars noticed changes to accommodate social distancing because of coronavirus. All employees wear masks, and patrons have to call in an order to use one of the few bathrooms. The snack bar itself is still running, but has a smaller menu, and only staff is allowed inside.

It was several minutes late but the movie, “Sonic The Hedgehog,” finally started. It was bright and silly, and not only featured a speedy blue hedgehog but Jim Carrey as a villain who looked like a hipster dictator. 

Both April Hunger and her son were glad they came and clearly tired by the end. 

“I don’t want to drive home now, though,” she added, with a laugh.

It’s an age-old drive-in movie problem, even in the best of times.