Thailand opens drive-in cinema with cooling system for film fans wary of coronavirus

Vehicles are parked at the first drive-in movie theatre for people to enjoy movies while keeping social distancing amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Bangkok, Thailand, July 2, 2020. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Keen for the big screen but wary of the coronavirus, Thai film fans flocked to a new drive-in cinema on Thursday, which offered a novel cooling system to help combat the discomfort of being confined to cars on a hot and stuffy night.

About 80 vehicles pulled up in a car park to attend Bangkok's inaugural outdoor screening of the "Trolls World Tour", part of a special four-day offering for moviegoers who want to avoid indoor theatres.

To beat the tropical heat, organisers created a network of plastic pipes in the parking lot connected to dozens of smaller, flexible tubes, to channel cool air into cars through gaps in the windows.

With evening temperature of 28 degrees Celsius (82.4°F) and 78% humidity, Sasanan Thanasankulang said she wasn't sure what level of comfort to expect from the makeshift theatre.

"I came with my mother, I wanted to bring her to experience the new drive-in movie theatre," she said.

"We were curious about how this drive-in movie theatre could deal with the hot and humid weather, and we didn't turn on the engine."

Thailand has emerged as one of Asia's COVID-19 success stories, with no domestic transmission in the past 38 days and only 58 deaths among its 3,179 confirmed cases.

It has eased most restrictions to try to revive an economy badly hit by the pandemic, with bars, karaoke and massage parlours the latest businesses allowed to reopen.

Though Thai cinemas have been open for one month with limited seating and regular disinfection, Apitchaya Doungsuwan said she felt safer in her car and was willing to pay the 1,200 baht (30.88 pounds) fee per vehicle, which includes popcorn and soft drinks.

"I want to try new things and I worry a bit about the spread of the COVID-19 in the movie theatre," she said.

"If the experience from tonight is good, sure we will come back."

(Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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