The Show Must Go On

The Show Must Go On

Brewery becomes movie theater during pandemic



For Quentin Willard, founder and operator of the Fort Smith Brewing Company, breweries are not just for serving beer. They’re about bring the community together. So when the covid-19 global pandemic started closing venues in and around Fort Smith, he started brainstorming how he could offer a place for the community to gather safely. His creative solution: a drive-in theater on the grounds of his business.

“We created a big screen with some fabric from the local fabric store and sewed it together,” he explains. “We used a projector and an FM transmitter so people can hear the movie in their car. There’s no noise pollution, and it’s easy for people to stay in their cars. We’re really good neighbors. It’s a perfect situation for people to be engaged and for us to provide entertainment to our community.”

In addition to beer and wine, customers can make the movie-going experience even more festive by ordering pulled pork nachos and sandwiches, Chex mix medleys, soft drinks, candy and popcorn.

April 16 marked the first movie shown at the event, a screening of the Fred Rogers biopic “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” The choice — a movie about a man whose legacy was uniting the community — was not an accident; for Willard, Rogers’ ethos is an echo of why he got into the brewery business to begin with.

“I was in the military and did a lot of traveling, got to meet a lot of interesting people — usually over a local beverage, whether we were in Asia, Africa, Europe ,” says Willard, who is a Van Buren native. “When I was in Rhode Island, I started visiting a lot of craft breweries, and I really enjoyed the environment. I realized it was a perfect industry for Arkansas — this is something we could do very well.”

Willard says his observation was that breweries, and the communities that spring up around them, lend themselves to the “sharing of minds.”

“If Arkansas got a brewery in every single town, we might share more ideas about big subjects like health care and education — that’s the way a brewery has the potential to help a community thrive and excel in this crazy economy.”

Asia Smith hands out menus to cars as they park before the start of Fort Smith Brewing Company’s first drive-in movie night on April 16.
(File Photo/Stephen Swofford)

Willard says that the Fort Smith Brewing Company is host to a number of events on a regular basis that, he hopes, help further the community-minded mission on which he founded the company.

“We do Beer and Hymns nights, Pints with a Priest,” he explains. “We work with the Buddhists. We work with nonprofits, whether it’s animal rehabilitation or finding children housing and equipment. We work with every organization we can in our community to make sure they’re successful and help promote awareness of their situation.”

FSBC has a double feature of films on the schedule for tonight: “Nacho Libre,” in which Jack Black plays a monk who follows his dream and dons a mask to moonlight as a Luchador; and “The Turkey Bowl,” rated R, in which a 30-something urbanite is pulled back to his rural hometown by his high-school buddies to finish an epic football game against their crosstown rivals that was snowed out 15 years before.

“We’ve got a lot of fun ideas for future features,” says Willard. “We’re always here for the community, no matter how long this lasts.”



Drive-In Movies

WHEN — 8 p.m. May 21

WHERE — Fort Smith Brewing Company, 7500 Fort Chaffee Blvd. in Fort Smith

COST — Free, but you must make a reservation

INFO — Message Fort Smith Brewing Company on Facebook ( your name, your phone number, the make/model of your vehicle, and which movie you want to see. FSBC will contact you to confirm your reservation.

Categories: Theater