Logistical and copyright issues need to be resolved before a proposal to show drive-in movies in Woodstock can become a reality. Stephanie VeZolles has sought permission from Woodstock to use the Rock City Road parking lot to show movies as a public service to the community. The town board is being cautious in its reaction to the idea.
“The Rock City Parking lot is the perfect setting adjacent from the Woodstock Film Festival and situated with all the amenities needed including restrooms, a ticket booth and restaurant around the corner,” VeZolles told the board in a presentation at the August 18 business meeting. “Especially during the times of Covid 19, a drive-in movie is a safe social-distancing activity to enjoy with friends.”
VeZolles noted the Woodstock Film Festival was considering drive-ins as part of events in October.
VeZolles said she wants to charge $10 per car, but not as a money-making venture. The proceeds would go toward a $20,000 investment in equipment.
She envisions showing movies a few days a week from the summer through October. “It’s not for a business. It’s not to make money. It’s to add beauty and lifestyle to the town, and something fun and nice,” VeZolles said.
The town board expressed concern about parking for those who aren’t coming for the movie.
“What about parking for places like Colony? What if people want to get out? We’d have to shut the parking lot down at a certain time,” councilman Richard Heppner said.
Councilwoman Laura Ricci shared similar concerns and asked what happens to people who wanted to use the lot to go to other events.
“We could have an area that’s for the Woodstock people parking and then the ones that are coming to see the movie can come in a different way,” VeZolles responded.
Councilman Reggie Earls suggested fewer screenings to start, making it easier to expand. “How about paring it down to just one night a week?” he suggested. “Doing it a few nights a week just seems like a little much, and maybe you could start off with once every week for that period. If you’re talking about money I think that you would cut your expenses by starting off a little smaller and letting it build.”
Supervisor Bill McKenna suggested the Mescal Hornbeck Community Center as a location. “You might be able to get 40 cars there. It’s not 150, but there, you might be able to do it a couple of nights a week. We don’t get as many people parking there at night,” he said. “I think you’d get two rows of cars, maybe three if you put the screen back behind the pool.”
McKenna also suggested talking with the Woodstock Playhouse since they had expressed interest in drive-in movies
Councilman Lorin Rose favored that possibility. “I think the playhouse would be the best option since you don’t have to move any cars,” he said. “You’ve got cars that are now parked sideways [in the Rock City Road lot]. You’re going to have to empty that lot to get 150 cars in there, and that’s just insanity.”
Town clerk Jackie Early raised concerns about zoning issues with having a drive-in. McKenna said there might be, but said it could be a town-sponsored event if it were held on town property. It could also ne included under an emergency order temporarily relaxing regulations over outdoor dining and events, he noted.
Logistics aside, the idea could hit another legal snag. VeZolles seemed unaware of licensing fees required for public screening of movies. “They wouldn’t be new movies, so you don’t have to pay to run a movie. They would just be reruns,” she said.
“You can’t charge money and just be showing movies without paying someone,” Heppner said.
There are two major licensing companies, Swank Motion Pictures and Criterion USA. According to both firms, fees depend on factors such as screening location, size of audience, specific movie, and whether admission is charged.