Melonie Ross of Strong, left, her three children and her daughter’s boyfriend wait for the start of “The Call of the Wild” to begin Thursday at the Narrow Gauge Drive-In in Farmington. From left are Ross, Alora Ross, Summer Ross, Luke Romanoski and Chase Ross. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Eric LeBlanc of Temple won’t sit next to his mother to watch a movie at the theater. In fact, she had to drive her own car there.

“Different household. We play by the rules,” Brenda LeBlanc said.

“It’s a family affair,” Eric LeBlanc said. “Sort of.”

Welcome to a drive-in movie theater during a pandemic.

Cars park 6 feet apart Thursday during the reopening of Narrow Gauge Drive-In in Farmington. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The Narrow Gauge Drive-In in Farmington is one of four reopening this weekend. It has been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but as part of Gov. Janet Mills’ plan to restart the economy, drive-ins were allowed to open with restrictions as of May 1.

Tickets for three weekend shows at the Narrow Gauge went on sale at 5 p.m. Monday and were gone two and a half hours later.

“We have been cooped up for so long,” Melonie Ross of Strong said. “We thought this would be a good chance to get out and support a local business.”

Ross, her three children, Summer, Chase and Alora, and her daughter’s boyfriend sat in the back of their pickup truck eating Thai food minutes before “The Call of the Wild” started.

“It’s nice to get out and support a local business in a safe way,” Heather Erskine said while watching the movie with her children, Olivia, 11, and Mason, 9.

Allowing drive-ins to open “made sense” to Narrow Gauge owner John Moore. “Outdoor venues are one of the safer places to be,” he said. “The drive-in fits that description pretty well.”

Moore limited Thursday’s opening to 50 cars, 10 fewer than normal. He painted lines so cars would park 6 feet a part, which is not much different than how the drive-in operated prior to concerns about the coronavirus. “Social distance is built into a drive-in,” Moore said. “You don’t want to put people in on top of each other.”

Moore brought back one employee for opening night. He and his wife took tickets and handed out popcorn while Trinity Titus helped park cars.

“I am back to making money so it feels pretty good,” Titus, a Mount Blue High School junior, said.

Moore said that until he can open the sit-down theater part of his business, it will remain just him, his wife and Titus running the show. “It does not make much sense to bring more employees back until I can give them more hours,” he said.

Jen Bjorn of Narrow Gauge Drive-In passes two boxes of popcorn to a customer Thursday in Farmington. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

People are happy that their local drive-in is once again open.

“John we love you,” said a man as he jogged past Moore shortly before showtime.

“Where’s your mask?” Moore hollered back.

Even “Tuck” the dog was happy. “His tail wags when we say we are going to the movies,” his owner, Kelly LeBlanc, said.

Pets are allowed at the Narrow Gauge Drive-In.

The only ones not happy that business was creeping back to normal were the 10 skateboarders who had been using the theater’s empty parking lot since the movie theater was shut down in March.

“OK guys, you need to move along. The drive-in is back to being open,” Moore told the teenagers respectfully.

Renee Woodard of Wilton said her three children would normally be playing sports if the coronavirus had not shut down spring programs. “We usually have sports and everything else, so it’s nice to have the break and get to come to the drive-in,” she said.

Thursday’s opening was a first to a drive-in theater for many, including the Erskine family of Farmington and the Hodgkins family of Jay.

“My first time ever coming to a drive-in,” Angela Hodgkins said.

“It’s our first time out doing anything,” her husband, Dave, said.

 

John Moore, owner of  Narrow Gauge Drive-In in Farmington, and his wife, Jen Bjorn, carry boxes of free popcorn to movie-goers Thursday. Moore said his early season shows are being sponsored by Franklin Savings Bank. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

 

Eric and Kelly LeBlanc of Temple have their phone scanned by John Moore to show they paid for tickets to see “The Call of the Wild” at the Narrow Gauge Drive-In in Farmington on Thursday. Ticket sales are done online so that no cash was handled due to coronavirus concerns. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

 

Angela Hodgkins and her 7-year-old son, Grayson, of Jay watch “The Call of the Wild” at the Narrow Gauge Drive-In in Farmington on Thursday. “My first time ever coming to a drive-in,” she said. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Monmouth Academy students Gavin Wing and Bre Smith watch “The Call of the Wild” from the back of Wing’s pickup truck Thursday at the Narrow Gauge Drive-In in Farmington. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Even though the Narrow Gauge Drive-In reopened Thursday in Farmington, the indoor cinema portion of John Moore’s business remains closed because of the coronavirus pandemic restrictions. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

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