GoDriveIn: reviving a classic pastime to support a community
Megan16 Nov, 2021
There were many things we lost in 2020. The one thing we gained? Drive-in cinemas packed with a sense of nostalgia.
When traditional cinemas were forced to shut their doors last year, drive-in cinemas, like GoDriveIn, allowed avid moviegoers to watch their favourite films in a safe and socially-distanced way.
It’s now been a little over a year since Grant De Sousa and Tyrone Rubin launched GoDriveIn. What started as a temporary fundraising initiative soon evolved into a long-term project that provided a space for other small businesses to operate from. During the day, GoDriveIn operates as a car wash and roadhouse. At night, audiences can park their cars to watch the movie on offer.
Read more: HerMerakai: nurturing her passion into a flourishing business
We caught up with Grant to learn how he built his business from the ground up in the middle of a pandemic.
What kickstarted your decision to launch GoDriveIn?
I’m a film director by trade. I make TV commercials and short films. During lockdown last year, my partner and I decided to do some fundraising to buy cloth masks for people who couldn’t afford them. One of the fundraising initiatives was a drive-in cinema, which we planned to run for one month.
We were then approached by an old friend of mine who heard about our plans. He asked us to take a look at a site in Salt River. At that stage, it was a derelict parking garage that had been standing empty for years. It would need some work to become a functional space. We realised that if we used the site, we’d have to turn our initiative into a long-term project.
We weren’t doing much at the time, so we decided to give it a shot. We went into partnership with Swish, who owned the property, and the rest is history.
How long did it take for you to turn your idea into a reality?
It took us eight months to open GoDriveIn. We started making use of the space in stages. Three months before we opened the drive-in, the food trucks started operating on the site. Then we got some of the other vendors in. We slowly started building out the space until we were ready to open the drive-in.
Many people have an expectation of what a drive-in cinema should be like. What did you do to meet customer expectations?
Drive-ins don’t exist anymore, so we played into the nostalgia around the concept. People tuned in using FM radios, we deliberately showed older films, and we got food trucks to sell food to hungry customers.
What were some of the things you had to consider while establishing your business?
Our main consideration was the fact that we were going from a short-term initiative to a long-term project in the middle of a pandemic. We would need to employ permanent staff, which was tricky, but we did it.
We also wanted to create a space that is open to customers during the day. There’s a car wash, some food trucks, a coffee shop, a guy who does cellphone repairs and a guy who does furniture decorations. We turned the parking space into a home for several small businesses.
One of the things I’m proudest of is that we managed to help and support people during a difficult period, and they’ve all managed to survive with our support.
GoDriveIn hosts several food trucks on-site. How did you choose which food trucks would be the right fit?
It’s been a journey. We started with ten food trucks at the beginning, which was very optimistic. I thought people would come during the day and visit the food trucks – kind of like a food hall thing. I quickly learned that there was no foot traffic, and people weren’t spending money yet at that stage.
For the actual drive-in experience, we landed on two food trucks, a coffee shop, and our popcorn stand. The one main thing we’ve had to offer is halaal food. 40% of our target market are Muslim, so we had to factor that in. We have one truck that’s halaal, and another that is halaal-friendly. We also had to ensure that the food trucks appealed to most people. We have one food truck that sells burgers and another one that sells Mexican cuisine.
You have a wide selection of movies on show. What goes into the movie selection process?
I’m a filmmaker, so I’m a bit of a cinephile. Every two months we announce the film line-up for the following two months. Getting to that point is a process. We quickly learnt which films do well. We’ve become a family-oriented space. So two-thirds of the films are family movies and animated films. We then show one adult film over the weekend. Generally, the best experience is for a family. They come here, and they have fun.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned this year?
I’ve learned not to sweat the small stuff, and to keep moving forward. For instance, if we’ve got a quiet show, I don’t fret. I look at averages and not individual screenings.
I think our business could be considered a success story because a year later, we’re still here. Have I made millions? No. Have twenty-five other people survived as a result of it? Yes. That’s the most important thing to me.
Why did you decide to incorporate SnapScan into your business?
As a payment system, SnapScan is easy to use. We also accept cash, but I don’t like using it. With SnapScan, there is a quick turnaround from the time a person arrives at a vendor and the time they finish their purchase. The transaction rates are fair as well.
I also use SnapScan for electricity, so it’s a very convenient thing for me. We have different meter boxes on the property, and SnapScan has made it easy for me to top them all up.
What are the next steps for GoDriveIn?
It’s hard to plan our next steps with the way things are right now. We’ve survived four lockdowns as a business. Some of them we were able to trade in, some of them we weren’t. I work in two-month cycles, and every two months we decide ‘Okay, let’s go again.’
For now, we’re just going to keep going and see how long we can maintain the business. I could never understand why drive-ins closed in the first place, but now I understand it’s because they were competing with big cinemas. We don’t want to compete with big cinemas. I’m a film guy, I know that’s not the world we want to work in. Our tagline is ‘Enjoy the classics in the most classic way possible,’ and that’s exactly what this is.
Experience this classic pastime for yourself. Drive through to GoDriveIn, situated in Salt River, to enjoy a movie served with a side of nostalgia. You can catch a film every evening from Friday to Sunday.
If you’d like to share your business’ SnapScan story with us, please get in touch at email@example.com.
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