At the drive-in: Nevada City Film Festival brings the drive-in movie experience to locals |

At the drive-in: Nevada City Film Festival brings the drive-in movie experience to locals


1. Movie starts at sunset. Please arrive no later than 8:30 pm. You will be guided to your parking space.

2. Ticket price ($30) includes two people.

3. We recommend two to three people per car as it can be difficult to see the screen from the back seat. Extra people (third, fourth or fifth person) are $8 each. 

4. You will need an FM radio either in your car or a handheld transistor. 

5. Please be aware if you are able to turn off your headlights and brake lights. If not, we recommend a blanket or duct tape to cover the lights. Leaving interior lights, heater or an air-conditioner on can drain a battery quickly when the engine is not running. If you know that your battery’s condition is not great, we recommend starting your vehicle once or twice during the show. If you do, please do not leave it running longer than two minutes. If you have bike racks or a rooftop cargo box on top of your car, we recommend taking those off before arriving. We have limited parking for SUVs and trucks. 

6. Please maintain good social distancing and stay six feet apart from all other moviegoers. Do not congregate outside your car.

7. Unfortunately, no alcohol is allowed in cars and we cannot sell open containers of alcohol to-go. Please respect these rules so we can continue operating the drive-in. 

8. Concessions are available for pre-sale when purchasing your tickets. After you have parked they will be delivered to your car by one of our friendly mask-wearing car-hops.  

9. Please take all concession trash with you to avoid out of vehicle foot traffic to maintain social distancing.

For many this summer has been, well, a bummer. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, days once spent on the shores of rivers and comingling with friends on a boat are now filled with time inside, social distancing, or both. It wasn’t that long ago that we were crowding into theaters to catch the blockbuster hit of the year but times have undeniably changed.

Like many organizations, the Nevada City Film Festival had to quickly reframe the core of their annual festival and that included designing a plan to continue its Movies Under The Pines series, typically held at Pioneer Park in Nevada City. Instead of feeling defeated, the nonprofit got creative and found an alternative: a drive-in movie experience right here in our community.

For two weekends – July 17-19 and July 24-26 – the Nevada City Film Festival will host Movies Under The Pines: Drive In! at the iconic Litton Engineering building in Grass Valley. In addition, the experience will serve as a fundraiser for other nonprofits in the area, namely The Friendship Club, NEO Youth Center, Neighborhood Center for the Arts, and Bear Yuba Land Trust.

“It’s a fun way for the film festival to provide the community with entertainment and joy, while also helping out our fellow nonprofits that are – despite COVID-19 – still doing essential and important work,” said Jesse Locks, executive director of the Nevada City Film Festival.

“I hope it’s an opportunity to come together in a way that is socially appropriate and to share a common experience – which a lot of us are craving – while honoring the social distancing requirements.”— Jennifer SingerExecutive director for The Friendship Club

“It’s also a good warm-up for our team to prepare for our 20th anniversary film festival – August 28 through September 4 – which will be presented in a similar drive-in format.”

The idea for the drive-in came to fruition with the help of a number of local donors and sponsors who wanted the chance to give the community a reprieve from the stresses surrounding the Coronavirus.

Jennifer Singer, executive director for The Friendship Club and whose family built and maintains the Litton building, was happy to arrange for the use of the property in order for the drive-in to become a reality.

“I hope it’s an opportunity to come together in a way that is socially appropriate and to share a common experience – which a lot of us are craving – while honoring the social distancing requirements,” said Singer. “We thought, ‘Hey what if we do it at Litton and we could use it as an opportunity for kids and families (to have) something to look forward to?’”

The screen will be lit with a couple of modern family-friendly classics, chosen by the Nevada City Film Festival staff. This weekend will feature the 2011 J.J. Abrams sci-fi film ‘Super 8’ while Martin Scorsese’s fantasy ‘Hugo’ will screen July 24-26. The selected films, Jesse Locks said in a statement, were chosen specifically for families with tweens/teens.

The experience will incorporate state of the art projection onto a 32-foot screen, while mask-wearing car hops will offer concessions from local businesses like The Onyx Theatre, who will be offering up their organic popcorn. (These items are available for pre-sale when purchasing tickets.)

Those who attend the drive-in will be instructed upon arrival to tune their car radios to an FM station that will be set up specifically for the screenings. This function will allow all attendees – the space is set to hold up to 45 vehicles – to hear the soundtrack within their own space.

Locks said the community has been very supportive of the film festival’s efforts, with many local businesses donating generously in order for the series to be successful for all involved. Hansen Brother Enterprises, for example, is donating the use of scaffolding for the event.

Helen Hansen, vice president of Hansen Brothers, said the decision to help with the drive-in event was an easy one for several reasons.

“This is what we do; we try to support not just one organization but something for everyone,” said Hansen. “I have been involved with The Friendship Club since its conception so that holds a real emotional part of me. I think (the drive-in) will be great entertainment for families – give people a chance to go out in a safe environment and to raise money for great organizations.”

The County of Nevada, READY Nevada County, and The Onyx Theatre have also been named as cosponsors.

For more information please visit

Jennifer Nobles is a freelance writer based in Grass Valley. She can be reached at

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