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The Big Mo drive-in theater to stay open, taking precautions due to coronavirus

Cars will be parked 19 feet away from each other and concession takeout will be available.

MONETTA, S.C. — The Big Mo Drive-In Theater will be taking several precautions due to the coronavirus when they open this weekend.

In 1951, the drive-in opened its first screen. In 1986, they shortly closed but reopened in 1999. They added one screen in 2005 and an additional one in 2011. It's one of the only drive-in theater around the Midlands.

The Big Mo is typically open from March to November each year.

Since the coronavirus has made its way to the Midlands, it's made it difficult for businesses to stay open.

This includes restaurants who were ordered by the state government to shut down dine-in services. Many of the restaurants have started curbside pickup and delivery services in the meantime.

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"It's a week by week, almost day by day process," says co-owner of The Big Mo, Richard Boaz.

The drive-in made the decision to be open this weekend. The co-owner says they've implemented new rules to help protect everyone's health.

"We've closed the concession stand building. We're only going to have a service window for concessions. We're going to park the cars, one on each set of posts. We have the main field, the unisex and handicap restroom that will be open and the bathrooms on the two other fields," explained Boaz.

Credit: WLTX

With only one car being placed at each post, there will be 19 feet in between each car. The Big Mo does feel it helps that this will be outside and not in a contained environment.

The concession building will be closed, but they will have a takeout area available.

The co-owner says his understanding of Governor Henry McMaster's order would still allow The Big Mo to be open.

"My reading of the governor's order was that if it's public property, if it had been all properties with meeting of 50 or more, we probably would have closed because I'm not sure we could operate with just 50 people."

If government officials approached The Big Mo, Boaz says they would certainly follow their orders.

"I'm not going to break the law, it's just that simple. If the government says that private operations cannot operate at all, I'll have to deal with it."

The co-owner will continue to monitor update from government officials to find out how it will impact his business.

Another factor into their future decisions will be due to curfews. Customers for the theater who come from Columbia will have to be home by 11 p.m. according to city officials.

The drive-in will also have to factor in how many people will be willing to come to the movies.

RELATED: Columbia to impose citywide night curfew starting Wednesday

"Hollywood has basically shut down. There's no new releases that are going to do any business and pretty soon we will have run-through any movie that would do any business."

One of Boaz's concerns is that with Hollywood not releasing movies, they won't have anything people will want to see.

Right now the co-owner says there is a fifty percent chance they'll be open next week and only five percent the following week.

"When we close, I don't even think it's if, I think it's just a matter of time. When we close, I think it's going to be very difficult to open up again because you're not going to know when it's safe. If you open again, you still have the problem of no movies to show. It's going to be a problem. If it goes into the late summer, our season is dwindling down by then anyway."

Boaz says some in the community say they're happy to see The Big Mo open.

"We've got a lot of people that have expressed appreciation for us being open and to give them a chance to kind of shelter in place away from home."

Boaz wants to thank everyone for their support but wants to stress they have to take in all other factors before deciding whether they will remain open or not during the coronavirus situation.

"Our goal is not to infect all of South Carolina and Georgia, you know. It's to provide a unique form of entertainment that we believe will protect people or keep people safe from this virus but if we that that's a problem or the regulators see that that's a problem, or if it becomes economically not feasible to do it, then we'll close and it would be quickly."