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Parking Lot Theatre Looks To Safely Bring Performing Arts And Movies Back To Milwaukeeans

Courtesy of Parking Lot Theatre
A view from the first Parking Lot Theatre event in the Menomonee River Valley neighborhood, which featured a showing of “The Goonies,” live performance, and food.";s:

How we seek entertainment has changed drastically since the coronavirus pandemic began. Seeing the performing arts and going to movies isn’t physically safe to do, but many of us still want to engage with the arts in person.

Activists Anne Koller and Manny Lara were concerned about how the lockdown would impact Milwaukee’s creative communities and they wanted to find a safe way to enjoy the arts.

They found their answer: empty parking lots. The Parking Lot Theatre has been hosting movies and concerts for people to see from inside their cars.

"We have parking lots all around the city and we have the availability to cars. We can drive around for essential visits like getting food and things like that, and we really crave connection and we crave entertainment," says Koller.

Health was their number one concern. They both knew that if this couldn’t be done safely, then it shouldn't be done at all. "Just keeping the beacon of safety, so how could we create this safe bubble and have everyone travel and be social in a safe way," says Lara.

To keep patrons safe, all tickets are sold online, bathroom lines are facilitated through texting, and people must sit inside their car.

The first event was in the Menomonee River Valley neighborhood. It featured food from Sobelmans Pub and Grill, two live music performances, and a showing of the hits '80s movie The Goonies. The event attracted over 100 people.

Koller and Lara hope to expand to neighborhoods all across Milwaukee and to make each event feel representative of the community. “Not just templating, not just showing The Goonies in every neighborhood,” says Koller. “It’s not for the community, it’s with. It’s co-creative and a co-creative process.”

Find upcoming Parking Lot Theatre events.

Audrey is a producer, host and reporter for Lake Effect. She is involved with every aspect of the show — from conducting interviews, editing audio, posting web stories and mixing the show together.
From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.