Drive-In Concerts Get a Boost as TobyMac, Newsboys Book By-the-Carload Tours for Summer

Chris Willman

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The move toward holding drive-in concerts this summer — as explored in a Variety feature earlier this week — is picking up steam, with two Christian music artists of note, TobyMac and Newsboys United, announcing that they have each booked tours that will take place exclusively in 16 existing drive-in theaters in the South in late June and early July.

Tickets for the social-distancing shows are being sold by the carload, with up to six patrons allowed per car. General admission for the shows is $100, or $175 for preferred parking spots close to the stage and screen. At some drive-ins that have two screens, a cheaper $75 option is available to watch the show on the second screen, without a view of the live stage.

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The twin tours were the brainchild of the national Christian music tour producer Awakening Events, which managed to secure what may come to be a coveted URL, driveintheatertour.com, for their events.

“A few Saturday nights every summer my family and I head to a local drive-in movie theater,” said TobyMac in a statement. “We always love it. When we started discussing live shows in this quarantine season and the idea of playing drive-ins came up, I said, ‘Let’s go.’ It feels like summer, safe for everybody, and we all get to enjoy live music again.  We ’bout to make some memories.”

These two artists are not the first to book exclusively drive-in theaters for a tour this year. That honor belongs to EDM artist Marc Rebillet, who has put 12 shows on sale at nine ozoners in June, with a further geographic reach. None of the nine drive-ins on Rebillet’s tour duplicate any of the 16 being used by TobyMac or Newboys United.

“COVID-19 has changed all of our lives, but through it, we have learned that love is patient and love is kind,” said Newboys United lead singer Michael Tait. (Tait used to be TobyMac’s bandmate in the seminal Christian hip-hop-pop group DC Talk before members went their separate ways.) “Now we have the opportunity to come together safely and express our love for our creator who has been with us through these trying times.”

Although a number of other artists and festivals have looked at using drive-in theaters this summer, some drive-in owners have said they’re not interested in hosting concerts, saying they’re already doing too much business selling out movies — at least while indoor theaters remain closed — to give up screens and dive into the concert promotion business. Some of them may rethink that, though, if shows like these sell out, which seems a possibility, since they count as an underplay for a performer like TobyMac, who was filling arenas earlier in the year.

As noted in Variety, Live Nation plans to get into the outdoor concert business this summer, although the mega-promoter will be setting up shows in amphitheater parking lots rather than using existing drive-ins, which have less capacity and are mostly located in smaller cities.

Eight of the drive-ins being used for the Christian performers’ newly announced outings are hosting both artists over the summer, while another eight are booking just one or the other. The shows, by venue:

The Kenda Drive-In Theater in Marshall, Arkansas: Newsboys United June 18, TobyMac July 9.

The Sunset Drive-In in Aurora, Missouri: Newsboys June 19, TobyMac July 10.

The 66 Drive-In in Carthage, Missouri: Newsboys June 20, TobyMac July 11.

The Starlite Drive-In in Cadet, Missouri: Newsboys June 21, TobyMac July 12.

The Highway 21 Drive-In in Beaufort, South Carolina: TobyMac June 22, Newsboys July 8.

The Monetta Drive-In in Monetta, South Carolina: TobyMac June 23, Newsboys July 7.

The Blue Moon Drive-In in Guin, Alabama: Newsboys June 24, TobyMac July 6.

The Stardust Drive-In in Watertown, Tennessee: TobyMac June 25.

The Montana Drive-In in Estill Springs, Tennessee: Newsboys June 25, TobyMac July 7.

The Pink Cadillac Drive-In in Centerville, Tennessee: TobyMac June 26.

The Henagar Drive-In in Henagar, Alabama: Newsboys June 26.

The Iuka Drive-In in Iuka, Mississippi: TobyMac June 27.

The Birdsong Drive-In in Camden, Tennessee: TobyMac June 28.

The Macon Drive-In in Lafayette, Tennessee: Newsboys July 1.

The Sauerbeck Family Drive-In in La Grange, Kentucky: Newsboys July 2.

The Parkway Drive-In in Maryville, Tennessee: Newsboys July 6.

Another Christian music star, Michael W. Smith, has booked a “worship drive-in concert” for Franklin, Tennessee on May 30, although that one will take place at Williamson County AG Expo Park, not an existing theater.

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