Show canceled, so Trumbull theater students came up with alternative: drive-in movies

TRUMBULL — With movie theaters closed, big summer concerts canceled, and backyard barbecues scaled back, summer nights in Trumbull could start getting a little dull. But a group of Trumbull High students is working to give community members a fun evening out and the chance to support student theater at the same time.

The Trumbull High School theater organization THeSpians started Trumbull’s first-ever drive-in movie series, held in the school’s parking lot. Past screenings of “Grease,” “Moana” and “Jurassic Park” played to over 100 cars. There is one more scheduled, “The Lion King” on Aug. 1.

“It seemed like a fun community event and a great way to help out an organization and a group of people who mean so much to me,” said event organizer James Gallo, a 2019 THS graduate and rising sophomore at Carnegie Mellon University. “The town and Board of (Education) offices were totally on board.”

Several community businesses and organizations signed on as sponsors of the event, enabling more proceeds to benefit the THS theater department.

With concerns about COVID-19, families can buy tickets online, go through a no-contact check-in, then park and set up for socially-distanced viewing. Sound is run through AM radio and the movies are projected onto a 32-foot inflatable screen.

Back in mid-March, the 2020 spring musical, “Bye Bye Birdie,” was canceled a week before opening night. In addition to being disappointing for the performers, the shutdown was also a financial disaster for the department, according to stage manager Jessie Flam.

“We had put so much heart and soul into this production,” he said.

And the losses were not just emotional.

“Our program is supported solely by fundraising and ticket sales, so when you suddenly can’t sell 1,000 tickets for each of five performances, that’s a huge loss of income,” said producer Shannon Bolan. “While some advance ticket holders generously donated their purchase back to the program, we were still left with a big gap to fill.”

With the show canceled, the drive-in series gives performers the chance to come together and work on an event.

“Although COVID-19 may have closed our curtain, it did not crush our spirits,” said THeSpian co-president Ava Mancini. “We were all ecstatic to be able to support the theater program while safely reuniting with our friends. It has definitely been the highlight of my week each week.”

On movie nights, the parking lot opens for arrival at 7:30 p.m. with the movie beginning at 9 p.m. On recent movie nights a party atmosphere has prevailed with groups stringing lights in the back of their vehicle, serving pizza or picnic dinners before the movie, and snuggling under blankets in the night air. Patrons can also purchase pre-packaged snack bags with popcorn, water bottles and candy when they buy their ticket online.

Tickets for the last show, Disney’s animated classic “The Lion King,” can be purchased online for $40 per car at