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The Drive-In at Carraway Village to close on July 27 for construction expansion

<p>The Drive-in at Carraway Village, a drive-in movie theater, will close on July 27.</p>
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The Drive-in at Carraway Village, a drive-in movie theater, will close on July 27.

The Drive-in at Carraway Village, a drive-in movie theater located off of Eubanks Road, will close on July 27 – although it may not be a permanent closure. 

The drive-in is set to close because Carraway Village, the apartment complex near the theatre, is expanding into the lot where it is located.

With the construction putting more than half of the parking spaces behind wire fence, Randi Emerman, a founder of the theater, said it was time to take a pause.

"The safety of our staff and the movie-loving community was our main priority as the area becomes more and more of an active construction site," Emerman and co-founder Carol Marshall said in an announcement on their website.  

Emerman first set up the drive-in in 2020 during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to give people the opportunity to get out of their houses and watch movies. 

She also wanted a socially-distanced place to host Film Fest 919, a Chapel Hill-based film festival she also co-founded with Marshall. The film event will still take place this year from Oct. 19 through 23.

“We started thinking about, 'How are we going to bring this to the people?'" she said. "We didn't want to not do it. You know, we wanted to fill people up with something to do, so we started entertaining the idea of a drive-in.”

After driving by Carraway Village and noticing the large field left open, Emerman talked to Carraway Village management and set up the projector and screen in October 2020. 

Emerman said the drive-in theater faced struggled at first. In the first three weeks, it experienced two hurricanes and a tornado.

She said for the first six months, they used a generator to power the drive-in, pushed cars out of the mud when they got stuck and placed sandbags around the generator to soften the noise.

“We tried to think of everything to give people a really good experience,” Emerman said.

Eventually, the drive-in did not need the generator and they put gravel down on the parking lot so that cars would not get stuck. 

On a typical Saturday night, the lot hosts around 100 attendees.

The movie visuals are projected onto a large screen, and attendees turn their car radios to 91.1 FM to listen to the movie audio. Popcorn, caramel corn, ice cream and candy can be purchased as concessions.

Attendees are also invited to bring their dogs to the movie. The admission fee for a dog is a pack or can of dog food, which is donated to the Meals on Wheels of Durham's pet program.

Community members can catch a movie at the theatre before it closes – the drive-in is showing "Thor: Love and Thunder" up until its closure. 

Everett Barbour, a staff member at the theater, was directing cars to their spaces before one of the showings.

Barbour estimated that the drive-in lost about 60 percent of its parking spaces since construction began. 

“The times that we sold out, it was like 100 cars in here," he said. "Now it's like, I think we had like about 50 today, and it's like jam-packed.” 

Wallace Sadowski said it was his third time at the drive-in. He said he wanted to enjoy the theater before it closed down.

"There's gonna be other cars and other people, and they're having fun and we're having fun, but it's nice to get out and not be trapped in a little tiny seat," he said. "So, I mean, that for me makes a difference.” 

Sadowski added that he was sad the theater is closing and that he hopes it will reopen after construction.

Emerman said she was heartbroken that they had to close the drive-in.

“The first few cars that were coming in, I just wanted to cry for each one, because we get to know the people, too," she said. "It's helped everybody, you know."

She said she is not sure when the movie theater will reopen, although the screen will remain set up through the construction. 

"We'll see what happens with the screen staying up and, you know, see what the future brings," she said.

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