Moviegoers Pack Michigan Drive-In Theater, Defying Gov. Whitmer Stay-At-Home Order

WARWICK, NEW YORK - MAY 15: A movie is played at the Warwick Drive-In on the first evening that the theater was allowed to re-open on May 15, 2020 in Warwick, New York. The theater is opening for the season on Friday following a ruling from New York state Governor …
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Capri Drive-in Theater in Branch County, Michigan, was packed on Friday evening, as moviegoers flocked in defiance of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order in response to the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.

Tom Magocs, who co-owns The Capri with his wife Susan, said that he knows opening the theater comes with risk — like being shut down — but that staying closed also poses a massive finial risk.

The drive-in theater, according to a report by MLive Michigan, is the Magocs family’s only source of income, and it had garnered zero profit this year. That is, until it opened Friday night in defiance of governor Whitmer’s stay-at-home order.

“It’s our livelihood — it’s the way we make our living,” said Magocs, who added that his family’s “coffers are down to the bottom” due to having been forced to shut down all year.

The Capri opened for business Friday night, just hours after governor Whitmer held a press conference slamming businesses in Michigan defying her orders.

“I think the vast majority of people in our state get it, and they’re doing the right things,” said Whitmer. “For those who aren’t, you know, we take this serious. This is not a suggestion.”

“These are not thoughts about how you can protect yourself,” she added. “This is the force of law, and we expect to people to follow the law.”

But despite Whitmer’s executive orders for people to shelter in place, and for all “non-essential” businesses to remain closed, The Capri opened, and vehicles — roughly a quarter mile long — lined up to get into the drive-in theater on Friday evening.

Magocs said that they have made changes to The Capri in an effort to stay safe during the Chinese virus pandemic. Some of the changes include mandating more space between cars, allowing people to bring food from home, the snack bar being delivery only, employees now wear protective gear, and customers are being required to remain inside their vehicles.

The report added that The Capri is one of the latest businesses to defy Whitmer’s orders, and that earlier on Friday, Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park in Kent County, and the Ardor + Grit Salon & Lounge in Holland were also open for business.

Magocs said that if he gets a ticket for opening his drive-in theater he will fight it in court.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.

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