Julie Mell at the Drive In
Coastsider Julie Mell stands near the Johnston House, where she hopes dozens of cars will fill the field for a unique drive-in movie experience. Adam Pardee / Review

Just when it seemed all in-person events were in the rear-view mirror, a new feature has appeared through the windshield. Pending final approval from San Mateo County, Coastsider Julie Mell is planning to host a drive-in movie on the evening of Aug. 13.

The event, set to start after sundown next Thursday, will invite cars to park in the field adjacent to the Johnston House for a viewing of “Chasing Mavericks.” Unlike the old drive-in movie sound boxes that rested on the window, audio will be played through cars’ FM radios. Tickets must be purchased in advance, and will come with a coupon book that includes deals to local businesses sponsoring the event. During online checkout, participants will also have the opportunity to support local nonprofits.

Prices have yet to be set and the number of spots is still to be determined.

Mell said to comply with county health orders, attendees will be required to stay in their cars with the windows rolled up for the duration of the movie, except to use on-site bathrooms while masked.

Gates will open after 7 p.m. to allow enough time for attendees to arrive and get set up. Aside from sponsor parking, spots will be first come, first served. Mell said she plans to ask attendees to read and agree to safety rules before purchasing a ticket.

Mell is no stranger to organizing events — she’s worked on film festivals near and far. So after the COVID-19 pandemic began, shutting down local productions, movie theaters and other community events, Mell jumped into action.

“My whole point is not only to bring a little joy to the community ... but it also offered me a sense of purpose,” Mell said. “I’m doing it to help nonprofits and small businesses in town as well.”

The idea for a drive-in movie on the Coastside seemed simple at first, Mell said, but logistics proved challenging and expensive. And after county health rules and spikes in COVID-19 cases derailed initial plans to host the event near the airport, she had to pivot quickly to a new location.

Mell is organizing the event under the business “Beach Break Entertainment,” and said she hopes to organize more movie nights if this initial event is successful.

“Everyone has been so enthusiastic about this, it’s been a blessing,” Mell said. “I am so excited for it to actually come to fruition.”

“Chasing Mavericks,” which was filmed along the coast in 2011, is the story of Jay Moriarity, a top Mavericks big wave surfer who died at the age of 22 while free diving in the Maldives.

Tickets and more information will be available at beachbreakentertainment.com.

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