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METALLICA AT THE DRIVE-IN: "WE'RE RISK TAKERS"

When Encore Live initially approached Metallica’s managers at Q Prime about doing a drive-in concert presentation, assembling a film crew in California was a no-go as the state was still on lockdown orders. Besides, no artist had done what Encore was seeking—a film of a new show to be screened at drive-ins across North America.

Garth Brooks played the role of guinea pig, signing up for the first Encore Drive-In Nights, shooting in Nashville and attracting more than 350k fans on 6/27 across North America. On 8/29, Metallica will be the first rock band to do an Encore Drive-In Nights show.

“We didn’t do our deal with [Encore Live] until after they did the Garth Brooks concert,” says Q Prime’s Cliff Burnstein, who co-manages Metallica with Peter Mensch. “That did pretty well from what we could tell and we looked at the fan comments and they were positive for the most part. That gave us confidence that the idea was solid.”

The deal they struck, which was signed soon after California Gov. Gavin Newsom allowed film and TV production to resume, calls for the two entities to split the production costs and, after the theater owners get their share, split the proceeds as well.

“We’re risk takers right alongside Encore in this,” Burnstein says. “I think Encore was interested in Metallica, obviously because they’re huge, but also because they’re probably the biggest rock band in the exurbs and rural areas where the drive-ins are.

“We have done a tremendous amount of promo tie-ins with radio stations. Some are like Phoenix, where the drive-ins are not far [from the city]. But in some of the places we’re dealing with, it’s radio that’s not monitored. We have a staff that is extremely detail-oriented that found stations to do this stuff. Like in Lewiston, Idaho—they’re super-excited about what we’re doing. We’ll see. It’s a risky concept.”

Metallica shot the concert on 8/10 in Northern California with a production team of 34 people after about a week of rehearsals. Post-production was expected to last about 10 days.

“We looked at what the sports teams were doing, like in Orlando with the NBA, and created our own bubble,” Burnstein says. “We brought in a COVID coordinator and had protocols established—people were tested every other day.”

Metallica, which had planned to play five Danny Wimmer Presents festivals this summer, had not performed together since September when they opened the Chase Center in San Francisco in a concert with the San Francisco Symphony.

The drive-in show, promoted by the Ft. Worth, Texas-based Encore Live, is a one-time only event, priced at $115—fees included— per car with up to six occupants. Each ticket purchase comes with four downloads of the album from that Chase Center show, S&M2, which is being released the day before the concert. “I’d love to say we planned this, but there were a lot of delays and other things so they wound up at about the same time,” Burnstein says. “It puts a big buzz on Metallica, which is always nice.”

Metallica will be seen on about 300 screens across the U.S. and Canada on 8/29 with theater capacities ranging between about 100 and 600 cars. Metallica does not have any other shows planned until next year when they will play the three Danny Wimmer Presents festivals that have been rescheduled—Louisville, near Daytona and Sacramento—still playing two separate sets at each.

“We’re keeping 2021 open not knowing what’s going to happen,” Burnstein says. “We’re exploring possibilities about what we could do, but I don’t think there’s anything more in the U.S. for 2021. Things are very uncertain. Europe, there might be more of an opportunity. We’ll have to see.”

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