This month marks one year since the lights went out on the Lark Theater’s marquee.
The Covid-19 pandemic shut down Larkspur’s landmark, single-screen Art Deco movie house on March 12, 2020. For the past 12 months, the staff and supporters of the Lark Theater held onto hope as they hosted Drive-In movies and planned for a reopening.
Now, the Lark Theater has a planned reopening date in September 2021, and the Lark’s Drive-In returns to the Village at Corte Madera this month—weather permitting—with a screening of Star Wars on March 18.
“We were performing right up until the last minute, between film and live performances, but we saw the writing on the wall,” says Lark Theater executive director Ellie Mednick about last year’s closure.
Due to the nonprofit theater’s fundraising, the small staff was able to stay on. One of Mednick’s first actions after the closure included creating the Lark Drive-In to offer socially distanced movie screenings in Marin County.
After a few events at the Bon Air Center, the Lark Drive-In found a more permanent home under the stars at the Village at Corte Madera’s large overflow parking lot.
The city of Corte Madera and the Village were both enthusiastic about the idea and donated that lot to the Lark Theater. One of the theater’s donors also stepped forward to buy equipment, including a state-of-the-art projector and a screen safely attached to trusses.
With a capacity for 120 cars, the Lark Drive-In opened last summer with sold-out shows that operated under strict Covid-19 safety protocols.
“The drive-in was a success—it sustained us financially, we kept our entire staff and actually added on staff for the drive-in,” Mednick says. “We did get a PPP grant which helped, we continued fundraising throughout the summer and I must say this year our community was more than generous and understanding of what we were going through as a nonprofit.”
After taking the winter off, the Drive-In returns with a slate of family-friendly programming Thursdays through Saturdays. This week’s scheduled films include Star Wars on March 18, Airplane! on March 19 and Frozen on March 20.
Films start at 8:30pm and gates open an hour in advance, to allow attendees to purchase picnic dinners from the Village restaurants or items from the new concession stand.
While drive-ins continue to entertain Marin County, the Lark Theater is planning a whole slew of design changes and updated amenities for when the building re-opens later this year.
Earlier this year, the theater installed a sophisticated heating and cooling ventilation system that is filtered for Covid concerns, and the theater will start the permit process in April to get the city’s approval for changes to the the building’s exterior color and the marquee’s lighting, and for new looks in the bathrooms and lobby, as well as new theater seating and lighting.
“We’re going to try to make this space a little jewel,” Mednick says. “I think it’s going to be the prettiest theater in Marin when we’re done.”