If the US travel industry has an equal in 2020’s coronavirus-fueled race to the bottom, it’s live entertainment. While hotels, airliners and destinations are less than half full, at least they’re operating. During COVID-19, from March stretching into September, when was the last time you attended a comedy club, theater, concert or even a movie?
That’s where innovators like Vincenzo Giammanco, of California-based CBF Productions , come in. Not only is this the summer of social distancing, it’s the summer of the road trip and pop-up drive-in movie theater. So why not combine the above? Voila: Concerts In Your Car!
CBF is producing Concerts In Your Car, with shows scheduled to go through December. Billed as California’s first social distancing concert series, the series launched in June 2020 at the Ventura County Fairgrounds in Ventura, CA, a road trip of about an hour from Los Angeles.
While Concerts in Your Car offers live concerts from name artists, the promoters also offer ‘movies in your cars,’ ‘tributes in your car’ (tribute bands) and even live theater.
Some of the acts are fairly big names. Comedians David Spade & Rob Schneider will appear live on Friday August 28, ($99 per car), Fitz and the Tantrums August 29, ($99 per car), Tower of Power and Los Lobos doing a day and a night show on September 6, ($99 per car for each show), and former members of Oingo Boingo doing a Halloween-themed show October 24 ($109.)
The live shows run about 75 minutes, and in a concession to coronavirus, no concessions are available. (You are of course welcome to bring your own food.)
COVID-19 protocols are followed. “To ensure safety, we will leave enough distance between you and surrounding vehicles. We ask that all guests remain in/by their vehicles, practice social distancing, and wear masks whenever outside of their vehicle. In the event it is necessary for a guest to leave their vehicle, guests must use safe and social distancing practices, and wear a face covering. Event staff will be wearing PPE (personal protective equipment) as required by CDC guidelines.”
Upcoming films include THE LION KING (August 31) DIE HARD (September 1), and the ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (September 23,) each offered at a flat rate of $29 per car.
As for theater, the promoter say the “Rubicon Theatre Company becomes the first regional theater company in the nation to offer safe-distance live theater performances.” Upcoming from September 7 to 9th is a tribute to “The Music of the Knights,” (Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, Sir Elton John and Sir Paul McCartney) starring Ted Neeley of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR and other performers.
Booking live entertainment and presenting it via a drive-in screen/audio experience during a pandemic is obviously an ambitious effort. We asked Vincenzo Giammanco, of California-based CBF Productions, how it’s working out.
Forbes: How successful have the shows been? What has attendance been, in terms of numbers of cars, people, or percentage of the Fairgrounds parking lot filled?
Giammanco: As far as attendance, we’ve been very successful. Since our opening in June, we’ve produced 45 shows. We put on 5-7 events per week, from movies and cover bands, to live concerts and comedy shows. Our max capacity at the Ventura County Fairgrounds is 700 cars and we’ve reached 85%-100% capacity each night.
Forbes: From a financial point of view, has this been a winner, break-even or a money loser?
Giammanco: The entertainment industry is completely devastated, so we’re very grateful to be working and creating jobs. From a financial point of view, it’s been a winner. We’re not getting the sort of numbers we were used to before COVID, but we’re thankful that this isn’t costing us money.
Forbes: Will this continue during the fall? Will it expand to other cities?
Giammanco: Yes, we are going all the way through December. We’re going to be launching “Holidays in Your Car,” which will be a drive-thru, ride-up activation, which will include productions such as “The Nutcracker,” a theatrical version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and possibly “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
As far as planned expansions, we do want to expand to Los Angeles as soon as they will allow something like this We will be expanding to Del Mar (San Diego) in September and Phoenix, AZ in October.
Why is Giammanco doing it, considering the effort involved?
“We are happy to be working and creating jobs, while giving the community a release and a safe way to view live entertainment. Seeing how grateful the performers are to be in front of a live audience again is priceless. I don’t think we’ve scratched the surface of what this space is going to be. We believe that the sky is the limit.”