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Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

Old Town Albuquerque is going to see a new pop-up drive-in movie theater soon. Albuquerque Film and Music Experience (AFMX) and the Albuquerque Little Theatre (ALT) have teamed up to weather the pandemic by offering drive-in movies in the vacant Albuquerque Little Theatre parking lot. It has been over a year since the pandemic shut ALT’s doors.

“Our goal is to provide family-friendly, throwback films, and entertainment, for the community in a safe and fun way. A second goal is to provide AFMX and ALT with some form of income to get through the pandemic while supporting local restaurants and businesses in a positive way,” said Ivan Weiner, Executive Director for AFMX.  Both organizations see this as an opportunity for greater cooperation within the art community in Albuquerque. 

“When our non-profits discussed supporting one another as an arts organization affected by COVID-19, we jumped at the opportunity to bring the AFMX Drive-ins to Albuquerque Little Theatre,” Weiner added. Last year, AFMX Drive-ins had success in the parking lot of O’Neill’s Pub in Nob Hill.

Weiner acknowledged that not everyone is happy about the pop-up and there have been a handful of residents who have expressed concerns about noise and light pollution from the screen. He says they’ve addressed those concerns at neighborhood and business association meetings. Neighborhood residents The Paper. spoke with voiced their support for the proposal. “I like the idea of being able to have some social outdoor entertainment. I feel like these places are very respectful when closing at a reasonable time. I’m in support. I do miss going to the Albuquerque Little Theatre and would like to support it,” said Julie Lena, a downtown resident. 

“We live downtown. I’d rather the noise come from a good cause than helicopters flying over,” said Amy, a resident from the neighborhood. Other neighbors also see the potential benefits from the drive-in for the neighborhood. “50 to 100 cars doesn’t seem like it’ll have a big impact on the neighborhood. I just don’t see it being a problem. It’ll help small local businesses and especially the theatre,” said Tom Talome, a resident of the neighborhood. 

AFMX assured concerned residents that  “the surrounding neighborhoods can rest assured that light and sound pollution and traffic are less than what is already along Central Avenue and what emits from the parking lot during performance season at the theater.”

To work with the neighborhood and ensure that the drive-in is mutually beneficial for both surrounding neighborhoods and the art community, AFMX invited all neighbors to attend a free soft opening on May 1st, and are working with all neighbors to make minor tweaks after they experience the drive-in firsthand.

Tickets are $20 per car, and 25 percent of the proceeds benefit ALT. Check out the drive-in movie schedule here.

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