Danger Lurks in Drive-In Cinemas

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Perak Menteri Besar Ahmad Faizal Azumu must have been beaming with pride when launching the country’s first drive-in cinema in Ipoh, a brainchild of his, as he had watched movies in the United States inside a car when he was a kid.

He thought it was timely to introduce this facility here as it would allow for social distancing and said the outdoor cinema located at Downtown Meru, which can accommodate 70 vehicles at a time, is set to be the new crowd puller to the state.

The drive-in cinema is operated by Perak Corporation Berhad Group and was developed in less than a month, fully equipped with website and online ticketing system. Ticket prices are RM36 for single occupancy cars, RM42 for double and RM46 for family of four, including popcorns and soft drinks or water.

Moviegoers are to arrive 45 minutes before screen time and smaller cars will be ushered to the front so that the raised 6m by 18m screen is not blocked. A special radio frequency will channel sounds from the movie to occupants in the car through the vehicles’ audio system.

Length of movies can vary considerably, which can range from 90 minutes to more than 120. Bollywood is known for its lengthy epics, with the longest stretching almost five hours. But their runtimes have been reduced substantially in recent years.

In any case, those gathered in front of the big outdoor screen will have to arrive early and spend more than two hours inside a parked car with engine and air-conditioning running. And this is when the Grim Reaper emerges, not in the movie but inside the car.

The Grim Reaper is a scary figure in a black cloak and razor-sharp scythe that put fears into anyone that captures a glimpse of him. He represents death and has been depicted in ancient art, literature, tattoos, and movies for many years.

All over the world, people have died sleeping in the car or couples spending too much time in deserted areas with the engine and air-conditioning running. The silent killer creeps into the car unnoticed as it is colourless and odourless, making unsuspecting occupants drowsy and falling into sleep they will never wake up.

The exhaust fume from petrol engines are mainly carbon dioxide and water vapour but it also contains a deadly amount of carbon monoxide. People have committed suicide by using a hose to connect the exhaust pipe into the car.

Those who drive long distances should open the windows occasionally if they do not wish to take rests in between. But opening doors or windows while watching a movie would allow mosquitoes to enter and run the risk of catching dengue fever.

In the United States, the operator of a drive-in cinema has this piece of advice: We strongly recommend that you do not run your engine for long periods during the movie. Noisy car engines are bothersome to your neighbours in the next car. Also, carbon monoxide is poison and can build up with several vehicles running in close proximity to each other.

For safety, I recommend intermission be introduced and all occupants are required to walk out of the car and perhaps visit the mobile toilets. Long queues could be prevented if a shed with sewage is built for the men to ease themselves.

The views expressed here are strictly those of The True Net reader YS Chan of Petaling Jaya.