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Children watch a movie atop their vehicle as Workhouse Arts Center hosts its drive-in theater, Saturday. Families brought their own snacks and tuned in the audio via FM radio.

As Northern Virginians venture out, families are eager to find outdoor activities that are still safe. Planners from Workhouse Arts Center, in Lorton, wondered what they could offer the community while behaviors were still restricted by distance and crowd size, and they decided to offer a retro experience of a drive-in movie screening on its campus, according to Joseph Wallen, director of performing arts.

“When we went into shutdown mode in the middle of March, no one was certain how long we were going to have to do something different. Was it going to be four weeks, six weeks? We just didn’t know,” he said. “We started looking at what we could offer the community in a socially distant setting, but still in a way that’s bringing the community together. And, this is what we came up with,” Wallen said.

He said that summer screenings was something Workhouse Arts had tried several years ago, but with only modest attendance. That did, however, give them some background in coordinating outdoor films.

After a few weekends, Wallen said the response has been fantastic.

“Everybody who comes has been really great about following the guidelines about social distancing, and, on the way out, we’re getting emails and social media feedback that people are so happy they’ve got something they can do together with their family; to get out of the house, but also do something safe.”

Pete Talbot drove his family down from Springfield, along with a couple neighbors, and all three parked their SUVs next to each other. Talbot, in his late 40s, said this was his first drive-in experience.

“My wife has been to one, but I’ve never been to a drive-in before tonight. Our neighbor mentioned it to us, and it felt like a good thing to get out and do,” Talbot said.

Talbot’s 8 year-old daughter, Ellie, was quite excited about her first drive-in.

“I knew I was going to love it, when I learned mom said I was allowed to watch on the roof,” she said, sitting on top of the family SUV, and grabbing some snacks as twilight deepened.

Wallen noted that Fairfax County authorities approved the Workhouse safety strategies for operation of the Friday and Saturday screenings, and he expects outdoor movies to run through August.

More info is available from www.workhousearts.org/drive-in-movies.