Walmart Wants to Salvage Summer With Drive-In Movie Theaters and Virtual Summer Camp

The retailer is finding ways to help lockdown-weary families

neil patrick harris as a pirate
Neil Patrick Harris will kick off Walmart's summer camp each morning with a little musical theater. Walmart
Headshot of Kaila Mathis

Key Insight:

In a summer unlike any other, Walmart has announced two initiatives to keep kids entertained.

The retailer is launching a free online summer camp, created in partnership with family experience company Camp, and transforming 160 of its parking lots across the nation into drive-in movie theaters.

Walmart evp and chief customer officer Janey Whiteside said both ideas sprang from issues most parents are facing in their own homes.

“Summer hasn’t really felt like summer yet,” she said in a statement. “I know I hear every day, ‘Mom, I’m bored!’”

The camp features themed videos from celebrities offering instruction in their areas of expertise. Neil Patrick Harris starts the morning with musical charades, Drew Barrymore teaches a makeup tutorial, LeBron James coaches participants through workouts and mental activities, Idina Menzel performs in a talent show, and designer Todd Oldham teaches an arts, crafts and fashion class. As participants watch videos, their preferences are saved and used to suggest new activities.

Walmart’s partner, interactive technology company Eko, helped bring the experiences to life. “Eko’s patented technology allows campers to make choices along the way that shape the outcome of their experience, creating increased interactions that reflect campers’ interest,” the retailer said in a statement.

The camp will be available beginning July 8 through the Walmart app, and will feature hundreds of activities.

Families can follow up day camp with drive-in movie nights in Walmart parking lots, which will run from August to October and feature two movies each evening. Further schedule updates will be on the Walmart Drive-In website.

The movies will be programmed by Tribeca Enterprises‘ Drive-In team, which has been offering similar experiences for nearly 20 years. Concessions can be purchased curbside before the movie at the store location.

Jane Rosenthal, CEO and co-founder of Tribeca Enterprises, believes that drive-in movie nights are about more than having some old-school fun, especially in a time when health is the highest priority.

“It’s one of the safest ways for communities to gather,” Rosenthal said in a statement. “We are thrilled to partner with Walmart to bring more people together around the shared cinematic experiences that Tribeca is known for.”

Covid-19 led brands to find new and creative ways to cater to customers during quarantine. Cosmetics brand Lush released a soap that dissolves in 30 seconds to encourage proper hand-washing, Dos Equis made a 6-foot-long cooler to encourage social distancing, and Verizon created a new mentorship program for small businesses.

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Kaila is a graduating senior at Villanova University pursuing a degree in PR & Advertising and Journalism. She is currently working as the Social Media Manager for CLLCTVE, and covers brand marketing and retail stories as a contributor for Adweek.