Friday evening marks the return of one of the area’s most retro-nostalgic summer movie events: the drive-in at Union Market.
Outdoor film screenings have long been a summer tradition in Washington, D.C. Screen on the Green has played classic movies on the National Mall for 17 years, and smaller movie series have cropped up more recently in public spaces from Adams Morgan to the Capitol Riverfront. But the Union Market Drive-In, which debuted July 2013, takes that growing tradition and fuses it with one that’s on the decline.
This weekend marks the return of Union Market’s weekly drive-in screenings. Films are projected onto the market’s three-story, white-brick facade, while the parking lot fills up with some 300 cars and another 100 to 200 people who come on foot or by bike. “This was an opportunity to do something different,” says organizer Jennifer Nolan of the series. “We thought people would appreciate the nostalgia of it.” Though America boasted thousands of drive-ins during their 1950s heyday, there are less than 400 today.
The developers at Union Market—itself an updated version of a throwback food hall—have given the classic pastime a distinctive modern twist. An airstream trailer sells guests beer, wine, and frozen drinks, and offers games like corn hole. Members of the DC Rollergirls, the local roller derby league, deliver snacks from the market’s vendors.
In a departure from classic menus items like hot dogs or popcorn, this drive-in offers charcuterie, salumi and sandwiches from Red Apron Butchery; cheese, jams and nuts from Righteous Cheese; Korean tacos from TaKorean; and loaves of bread from Lyon Bakery.
Things kick off with Space Jam this Friday, June 5; next up are Pretty Woman (June 12), Jurassic Park (June 19), and Beverly Hills Cop (June 26). It’s free to anyone who comes by foot or by bike, and $10 per car. Movie-goers can start claiming seats or parking spots at 6 p.m., and the movies begin at 8 p.m.