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Author Topic: Drive in Cinemas - Screens
Nicholas Vaughan
Film Handler

Posts: 1
Registered: Feb 2017

 - posted 02-22-2017 11:54 AM      Profile for Nicholas Vaughan   Email Nicholas Vaughan   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Hi all,
Nick here from the UK. Despite the awful rain we get here I am looking at the potential construction of a drive in cinema - albeit with canopies covering the vehicle and portable heaters for the dash so it can be a proper, 365 day a year operation.

But I guess my key questions and instigator for joining this forum is what advice any of your chaps would have with regard to material I should use for the screen itself (we will obviously use Barcos or similar digital brand).

For reference we are looking at around a 10m by 8m screen per 150 cars.

Thanks all!

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Jack Ondracek
Film God

Posts: 2308
From: Port Orchard, WA, USA
Registered: Oct 2002

 - posted 02-22-2017 01:11 PM      Profile for Jack Ondracek   Author's Homepage   Email Jack Ondracek   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Hello, Nicholas.

To start, you might want to consider your screen size. At an 8m height, you'd need a little under 19m to make the ratios correct. Two of my screens are about that size.

A screen surface can be just about anything that you can paint flat white. Here in the 'States, most remaining drive-ins have plywood or some form of roofing metal. I've seen one or two experiment with a rolled rubberized membrane. They seem to like it, but it's a little early to tell if it will hold up long-term.

If you have little rain (meaning, the screens won't get wet when you use them), you might get away with an exterior plywood or flat metal. On a rainy day however, a wet screen can be very reflective, which can mess up your picture.

My drive-in is in a semi-wet climate, so flat screens are that kind of problem. To fix that, we use the kind of metal roofing that waves in and out every couple of inches. That disperses any reflections and prevents the kind of sheeting that causes the real problems. You should be able to find this kind of metal in any length you specify from a roofing company, and you can order it with a baked-on white coating. We resurfaced two of ours recently. The sheets in 2-foot widths, which made them fairly easy to install (pick a day with no wind!).

Whatever you decide, when it comes time to paint, find the whitest flat paint you can get over there... meaning NO colorant at all. Some paint companies think adding a little black to their white helps it hide dirt. That doesn't do anything good for a drive-in though. The paint I use is simply the flat white base a store will use before they add the color a customer might want. Right off the shelf, it's ready to go. Names like Kelly-Moore, Miller, Sherwin-Williams and Behr are popular here. You may need to test some brands over there to see what works for you.

Screen frames are another matter. Some talented (and brave) folks over here have built frames out of phone poles, with stringers to support the surface sheets. At the size you're talking about, you can have a nice frame made out of that square metal you see used as posts for parking lot lighting. Two of mine are made that way. I've also seen screens made out of the materials an outdoor advertising sign might be made of. We have one commercial screen company left in the 'States, but I doubt they'd be able to travel to you without breaking your budget.

Sounds like you have a project on your hands. Should be a lot of fun... once you get it built. Good luck!

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Monte L Fullmer
Film God

Posts: 8318
From: Nampa, Idaho, USA
Registered: Nov 2004

 - posted 02-22-2017 05:09 PM      Profile for Monte L Fullmer   Email Monte L Fullmer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
True, congrats on the dream on building your own drive-in cinema!

I started in this industry working at drive ins before finally moving to the indoor houses. I still service two on occasion in my area.

The one screen where I live at does use the corrugated metal panels to eliminate that wet reflection.

I've seen screens made from sheets of masonite and painted over with white reflective street paint. The screen has a slight downward tilt being the booth is close, yet the screen is almost 110 ft wide.

Still though. Good luck as always !


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