Soldier Field drive-in movies are the brainchild of a Chicago woman willing to take a risk

John Garcia Image
Friday, August 14, 2020
How one woman turned Soldier Field in to a drive-in movie theater
Soldier Field is now the largest entertainment venue in Chicago with its drive-in movies, and that's all thanks to one woman.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- If her story was a movie it might be called "The Gambler."

Tionna Van Gundy insists she's not a risk taker, but nevertheless she emptied her IRA and maxed out her credit cards to set up a drive-in movie business in the parking lot at Soldier Field. It's become the largest entertainment venue in the city during a time when social gathering is a no-no.

"From my end, it is literally my life savings on the table every night," said Van Gundy.

Her investment is now keeping several other small businesses afloat. Tshurhad Chivas is the emcee and hires performers, including DJ's, comedians and musicians.

"It keeps my business going as well as ten other businesses and a total of 80 people," he said.

Van Gundy, 34, has no experience in the movie business. She was looking forward to the best year yet for her event planning business. But everything came to an abrupt halt in mid-March.

"Then COVID hit and literally devastated us. We went from 30-40 events to almost zero," she said.

She had to come up with a new idea quickly to try to keep her employees working. Once she settled on the Soldier Field Parking lot, they built movie screens onto stacked shipping containers. Three screens run simultaneously so there's not a bad seat, or parking spot, in the house.

She plays a variety of films from comedies to family-friendly and action movies.

"It's not profitable, but we're just hoping to cover my costs," Van Gundy said.

Doors open at 7 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, and the movie starts about 8:30 p.m. Tonight it's "Spiderman."

Van Gundy said she plans to keep it going through September and possibly October.