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Author Topic: Debating on buying Drive-In
Steve Greeno
Film Handler

Posts: 15
From: Frankfort, In. USA
Registered: May 2008


 - posted 12-14-2009 10:23 PM      Profile for Steve Greeno   Email Steve Greeno   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Could anyone on here tell me if buying a drive-in would be a good investment these days? We have a local drive-in theater located between two good size towns that had just gone up for sale. It was still in operation at the end of the season and now the owners want to sell it. The current owners have had it for only about five years or so. We use to patronize the place until it started going downhill in the up keep.

The price seems to be right (150,000) for the 10 acres along with the equipment. It is a turnkey operation.

One of the reasons I ask is I was surprised that they had it for sale. Just earlier this year we had asked them if they were interested in selling and they weren't. Now that they are I was wondering if they is anything out there coming down the pipeline that would effect the operation of a drive-in. Are films still going to be available for a while or would we have to invest in converting over to digital right away?

Thanks!

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Paul J. Neuhaus
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 126
From: Iraq.. Again!
Registered: Jun 2005


 - posted 12-14-2009 10:29 PM      Profile for Paul J. Neuhaus   Email Paul J. Neuhaus   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
getting away from the operational stage for a moment.... This could be a good investment opportunity just for the land itself. If it is on the outside of town like most drive-ins start out at it could eventualy be worth allot if the town expands. I know that has been the demise of several drive-ins. The town expands and then somebody is offering the owner way more then they ever thoght their place was worth so that a mini mall could go in.

I'm not trying to be evil here but from an investment standpoint it could be good in many fashions not just as a buisiness but as a future sale.

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Barry Floyd
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1079
From: Lebanon, Tennessee, USA
Registered: Mar 2000


 - posted 12-14-2009 10:50 PM      Profile for Barry Floyd   Author's Homepage   Email Barry Floyd   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Get a booker to pull the grosses for you from that theatre and see what kind of money it makes. $150,000.00 for just the 10 acres by itself is a pretty good deal in some places.

If it's a turn-key kind of operation, and you've got the time, patience, and money to spend.. go for it.

I spent close to $700k on my drive-in, but I started from nothing.

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Mike Blakesley
Film God

Posts: 12767
From: Forsyth, Montana
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 12-15-2009 01:23 AM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Steve Greeno
We use to patronize the place until it started going downhill in the up keep.
Given this statement, if you say it's a turnkey operation, how much will you have to invest to bring it up to "good" upkeep?

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Cameron Glendinning
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 845
From: West Ryde, Sydney, NSW Australia
Registered: Dec 2005


 - posted 12-15-2009 01:59 AM      Profile for Cameron Glendinning   Email Cameron Glendinning   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
How many screens does the Drive in feature? Would it be possible to expand and add more? The more choice thats offered the more appeal for people to attend, its easier to secure new product and work around the studios contracts.

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Ed Alvarado
Film Handler

Posts: 60
From: Fort Worth, TX,usa
Registered: Oct 2004


 - posted 12-15-2009 11:16 AM      Profile for Ed Alvarado   Author's Homepage   Email Ed Alvarado   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
wow dude i hope you do get the drive in up and running

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Robert E. Allen
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1078
From: Checotah, Oklahoma
Registered: Jul 2002


 - posted 12-15-2009 01:43 PM      Profile for Robert E. Allen   Email Robert E. Allen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Additional screens is not necessarily the answer for success. I would encourage you to go for it and model it after the glory days of drive-ins complete with a playground for the kids and films for the family. Drive-ins suffered when many became exploitation (or sexploitation) theatres. But today they are being built again. Make certain you have the best possible presentation available.

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Scott Norwood
Film God

Posts: 8146
From: Boston, MA. USA (1774.21 miles northeast of Dallas)
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 12-15-2009 02:05 PM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Why is it for sale?

How is the competition (both DI and indoor)? Is there any other out-of-home entertainment available in the area? Would you be able to get first-run films (even if that is not your intended booking policy, you should look into it)? Are there zoning or environmental restrictions that would prevent adding additional screens in the future? Are there nearby businesses with lighted parking lots that would wash out the screen image? Do you have any restaurant experience, or know someone who does? How are the property and sales taxes in your area?

As for maintenance--does the place at least look decent and meet code? Or can it be made so at little expense?

What are the newspaper (or other) advertising rates in that area? Is it within driving distance of the nearest DFS depot? If not, what will it cost to have films picked up and delivered (this can vary by location, at least with DFS). Is the projection and concession equipment in good shape, or can it be made so easily?

If you want an "investment" that would pay a reasonable return with a reasonable risk, you could probably do better elsewhere. On the other hand, this might be a fun business (especially if you have some other source of income and could run the DI as a hobby), and the land might be worth something in the future.

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John Wilson
Film God

Posts: 5438
From: Sydney, Australia.
Registered: Dec 1999


 - posted 12-15-2009 02:19 PM      Profile for John Wilson   Email John Wilson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Robert E. Allen
Additional screens is not necessarily the answer for success.
While that is true, you need to check out that it is possible. Down the track you may find it a viable option and two screens are always better than one. More flexibility with programming...more choice for your patrons...more chance of not having a 'dud' week stuck with a turkey on a single screen.

Like the others said $150k for that land alone is a fair price.

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Todd McCracken
Master Film Handler

Posts: 263
From: Northridge, CA, USA
Registered: Mar 2008


 - posted 12-15-2009 03:33 PM      Profile for Todd McCracken     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Light pollution seems to have been the demise of all the close to Los Angeles drive ins (Inside LA it was property values). I would definitely insure that there are no pending building projects in the immediate vicinity, as that may well be the reason the owner is selling.

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Barry Floyd
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1079
From: Lebanon, Tennessee, USA
Registered: Mar 2000


 - posted 12-15-2009 03:41 PM      Profile for Barry Floyd   Author's Homepage   Email Barry Floyd   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I started out with one screen in 2003, and added my second screen in the fall of 2005. Our first full operating season with 2 screens saw an increase of 40% compared to the year previous.
Having more than one screen also gives you the ability to hold on to films longer if they are performing well, and it also makes booking a whole lot easier. Since the studios seem to release all of the summer blockbusters in the month of May, with 2 screens you can play almost all of them instead of only one or two.
We tend to play "family friendly" films on one side, while playing to the college crowd and adults on the other side.

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Bruce Hansen
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 847
From: Stone Mountain, GA, USA
Registered: Dec 1999


 - posted 12-15-2009 05:13 PM      Profile for Bruce Hansen   Email Bruce Hansen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Check everything above, and if you still want it, make them an offer; maybe $120,000.

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Mitchell Dvoskin
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1869
From: West Milford, NJ, USA
Registered: Jan 2001


 - posted 12-15-2009 05:25 PM      Profile for Mitchell Dvoskin   Email Mitchell Dvoskin   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
> We use to patronize the place until it started going downhill in the up keep.

That could be a warning sign that they were losing money. The other is they are selling for essentially the value of the land.

As others have stated above, you need to see the grosses for the last year or so, and you need to see ongoing expenses, and take into account any additional expenses need to bring it up to code and/or make it look nice. If the theatre is losing money, then you need to ask yourself, What Can I Do Better Than The Previous Owner To Boost Profits?. Then do a little research to see if your ideas will work.

PS. Make sure you are buying the land, buildings, equipment for your $150K. If it turns out they are just selling the business, it is not a good deal at that price. Also remember that in Indiana, you are going to be closed from mid-September though Mid April.

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Steve Greeno
Film Handler

Posts: 15
From: Frankfort, In. USA
Registered: May 2008


 - posted 12-15-2009 09:02 PM      Profile for Steve Greeno   Email Steve Greeno   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I got the figures from the real estate agent yesterday. For the summer of 2009 this place had a total gross income of 111,000. plus. 58,000 paid out for films, booking fees and they had also included concession supplies. Then various other expenses like property taxes, utilities, payroll, etc. After all that the bottom net was at around $28,000.

This place was always hopping but it did better in my opinion when the previous owners had it. They had (and still do but needs some work) a playground, volleyball court, horseshoes, sandbox and other misc activities. It still has a 1955 Chevy as part of their sign that was once brilliant in color and attractive but now all faded and neglected. The current owners have a issue with keeping the place looking nice. Overgrown grass, brush, fence falling down and so on. However, from what I remember, they always had first run movies. I was always impressed with what they had showing.

They (the current owners) use to own the theater in our town then they walked away from it. The theater then was demolished. So, about 10 miles to the south of the place is a town that does have a 7 screen cinema. The town 10 miles to the north has nothing.

I was just wanting to know if independent owners are being forced to change over to digital or is film still going to be around for a few more years. It would be nice to change it over to digital but it would take a few years for us to be able to do this.

Here is a photo of the front back about 8 years ago.
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Louis Bornwasser
Film God

Posts: 4441
From: prospect ky usa
Registered: Mar 2005


 - posted 12-15-2009 09:06 PM      Profile for Louis Bornwasser   Author's Homepage   Email Louis Bornwasser   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Indiana went on "double savings time" (Central to Eastern, then daylight for the first time) means that drive ins start 2 hours later than before.

This, coupled with old equipment, poorly maintained (Motiograph) means that a real effort is going to be needed to be on screen early enough to attract a Summer audience.

I can't imagine the condition of the screen by now.

As for digital, light output is not its strong point. Film, at least in drive ins, is unchallenged as far as start times are concerned. Louis

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