The return of the drive-in movie was certainly not expected in the year 2020, with media consumption more instant than ever before thanks to streaming services and smart devices. But as the COVID-19 pandemic put the world on pause for several months and made traditional social activities—including going to the movies—unfeasible due to social distancing, the want and need for safe outside activities became greater. Drive-ins, of course, provide small groups and families a night out in the comfort and safety of their vehicle while enjoying a fun film. Nonprofit group All for the East End (AFTEE), in association with Dan’s Independent Media, saw the opportunity to provide a fun drive-in series for the community and raise money for the Feed the Need campaign to help the area food pantries with AFTEE Presents Show Time in Southampton, starting on Friday, July 17 and running for three weekends.
“Way back when AFTEE started in 2013, we raised money through a concert series,” says AFTEE board member Claudia Pilato. AFTEE was founded to raise money for other local nonprofit organizations, and earlier this year shifted gears to specifically help the food pantries of the East End with the Feed the Need initiative. “When we reinvigorated AFTEE to deal with issues of food instability and had many very generous contributions from the community, we felt like we needed to do something else to be both visible and to raise more funds,” says Pilato. “Given the environment, we thought, wouldn’t it be a perfect thing to have AFTEE sponsor drive in movies? How do you have a safe and fun family night out this summer? And we thought it was a perfect way to bring the community together in a safe way and provide an opportunity to donate. It’s a tax deductible donation on top of everything else.”
Proceeds from the event will go to Feed the Need. “The numbers in the food pantries have stabilized a bit but that’s by ‘COVID’ levels.” Feed the Need began in mid-March, at the onset of the quarantine. “[Southampton Town Supervisor] Jay Schneiderman was starting to hear from all of the food pantries about the rising need and demands and difficulty to feed everybody. He and [Assemblyman] Fred Thiele came to me and asked what we could do. AFTEE was already a well-established 501c3 and we quickly pivoted to focus on the Feed the Need campaign. AFTEE already had everything in place, it was a matter of jumpstarting the visibility, coming up with a new board of directors who have been phenomenal.” In addition to a board of directors, AFTEE has also installed a community advisory group that includes representation from the food pantries. To date, AFTEE has raised over $700,000 for food pantries across the five East End towns.
The films on offer are a fun mix of fan favorites. The series kicks off on July 17 with Men in Black, Dirty Dancing on July 18, Raiders of the Lost Ark on July 24, Rocky on July 25, Transformers on July 31 and Jurassic Park on August 1. “It was with an eye to, what can the whole family enjoy, what would be great on the big screen, and what movies might people not have seen on the big screen? They’re just fun,” says Pilato of the film selection.
One thing that sets this drive-in series apart is the attention paid to safety and space. “A lot of people are doing drive-in movies but we’re providing a very safe and organized environment so that every ticket purchase provides you with space for your car and an equal space that we’re calling tailgating space,” says Pilato. “It will be separated and you’ll know clear boundaries for your car and safe space so you can put some chairs in your space. That will be your space and keep you safe and protected. If you leave that space you have to wear a face mask. We’re adding a few fun things and have a few food trucks. The movie experience isn’t just about the movie, it’s about everything around the movie.”
Volunteering is at the heart and spirit of Feed the Need and AFTEE. “We are an entirely volunteer effort,” says Pilato. “There are no salaries. The board is working beside their own jobs. They are working tirelessly to make sure we understand what the needs are.” To that end, AFTEE is gifting the food pantries with tickets to each movie as a thank-you.
While quarantine rules have been relaxed in recent weeks, Pilato hopes the East End community won’t forget that there’s still a huge need for donations. “As people feel more comfortable and it seems like we’re getting back to normal, that’s when the challenge is going to come,” she says. “What if we have a second surge? So by having this movie series, we hope will raise funds that we can have ready to go. We do have money still in the fund, so this will add to the funds that we have and remind people that the need isn’t going away.”
For more on AFTEE Presents Show Time in Southampton, visit aftee.org.