Seizing a New Day

Brevard Music Center rescues its season with nostalgic Americana

The drive-in movie theater hasn’t gone the way of the dinosaur, and Brevard Music Center is here to prove it.

Over its more than 80-year history, Brevard Music Center has seen plenty of historic performances by some of the biggest names in classical, jazz, and Americana. Summers around the lake at the center’s campus have usually been soundtracked by arias, symphonies, and string quartets, as the stage has played host to such legendary performers at Yo-Yo Ma, Renée Fleming, and Joshua Bell. 

But it wasn’t until a warm Saturday night in June 2020 that Whittington-Pfohl Auditorium (or, more accurately, the parking lot behind Whittington-Pfohl Auditorium) would welcome R2D2 on a 30-foot screen. 

A campus known for its classical performances has remade itself into a classic American drive-in movie theater.

It seems hard to believe now that, just a few months ago, Brevard Music Center was planning one of its biggest Summer Music Festivals yet, with a raft of world-famous visiting performers, a celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday, and the grand opening of its new, state-of-the-art Parker Concert Hall. But when COVID-19 struck, BMC board members made the difficult decision to cancel the six-week-long festival. A campus typically filled with music, students, faculty, guest artists, and audiences for more than 80 scheduled performances would spend its summer mostly empty, and in silence. 

It didn’t feel right. So the Center’s staff members, in conjunction with a host of sponsors, friends, and community partners, devised a new way to bring audiences to the campus. The large, terraced parking lot behind Whittington-Pfohl Auditorium suggested the ideal terrain for an old-fashioned drive-in.

Audio is available via an FM transmission to the car radio. Tickets are purchased online, in advance of the show. A group of volunteers assembled from local nonprofits hands out free popcorn — courtesy of Brevard’s historic Co-Ed Cinema — and candy (from presenting sponsor Ingles Markets). Then the headlights go low for classic action and family fare. (Last month’s crowdpleasers were Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Sonic the Hedgehog, Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, and The Magnificent Seven.)

With many traditional means of finding solace through socializing and entertainment still deemed risky, the need for comfort and escapism is greater than ever. “It’s our hope that the series will provide a welcome respite for music and movie lovers of all ages in our community and region,” says Mark Weinstein, BMC President and CEO. “We hope these movies allow our community to come together to share entertainment — in their cars and with their families — in a safe and inspiring environment.”

Drive-in Movies @ Brevard Music Center concludes this month with Jurassic Park on July 4, The Matrix on July 11, and Avengers: End Game on July 18. Show time is 9pm. Tickets are $15 per car, and with space limited to 80 cars, organizers encourage movie fans to buy early, at brevardmusic.org, starting at 9am every Tuesday for that week’s film.

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