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» Film-Tech Forum   » Operations   » Ground Level   » Drive In Theater Design (Page 1)

 
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Author Topic: Drive In Theater Design
Tammy Rogers
Film Handler

Posts: 7
From: Buffalo, WV, US
Registered: Aug 2016


 - posted 10-25-2016 12:00 PM      Profile for Tammy Rogers   Email Tammy Rogers   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Hi all, I am interested in building a drive in movie theater here in West Virginia. I have a seven acre pasture in a great location that is level (important when you're talking about West Virginia) with the potential to add more property, and screens, later. I have looked for help with design online but can't find anything current. I saw a post that mentioned Selby and gave them a call asking for the design brochure. But Mr. Selby called me back and quoted a price that was more than I wanted to spend. What I really wanted was the brochure that could help with the lay out and design. If anyone has any helpful advice or can point me toward some good websites, I would appreciate it. Evidently the website driveinworkshop is no longer active. Thanks very much for your help.
Tammy Rogers
Fraziers Bottom, WV

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Mike Blakesley
Film God

Posts: 12274
From: Forsyth, Montana
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 10-25-2016 12:53 PM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
You could contact Barry Floyd, he is a member here. He built a drive-in from scratch in Tennessee.

Here is their website:
Stardust Drive-In

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Justin Hamaker
Film God

Posts: 2066
From: Lakeport, CA USA
Registered: Jan 2004


 - posted 10-25-2016 01:37 PM      Profile for Justin Hamaker   Author's Homepage   Email Justin Hamaker   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
If I were to build a drive-in from scratch, I would probably try to do some sort of terracing. One of the biggest issues we have is vehicles in the front rows blocking the sight lines of vehicles behind them. We started a rule where the first 3 rows are for cars only - nothing taller than 62", but we also have to police cars that put up a hatch.

My design would be 7-8 rows of 20'-30' wide terraces with each row being about one foot higher than the one in front. I would also cut two walkways going from the front to the back to give an easy path for people walking to the snack bar. The front of each terrace would have some sort of barrier to prevent cars from rolling forward. Of course this would be much easier if the property had a gentle slop from the screen to the snack bar.

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Monte L Fullmer
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From: Nampa, Idaho, USA
Registered: Nov 2004


 - posted 10-25-2016 05:56 PM      Profile for Monte L Fullmer   Email Monte L Fullmer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I've worked in flat yards where the bottom of the screen was 30 feet up from ground level to compensate for the line of sight.

Plus, the roadways between rows were a few feet below ground level to begin the parking slope where this also aids in the line of sight to the elevated screen by the parked, forward facing vehicle.

Thing one really have to adjust for if building a lot like this is that most of your patrons owns SUVS or pickups where they love to back in towards the screen.

The SUV owners raises the rear door where it can easily partially block the vision of the vehicle behind, esp if they've pulled in facing the screen.

Thus, a good elevated screen takes care of these additional sight line issues.

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Donald Brown
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 120
From: Lincoln, DE
Registered: Sep 2009


 - posted 11-16-2016 08:59 PM      Profile for Donald Brown   Email Donald Brown   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Hello Tammy:

Today, the state of motion picture exhibition, particularly with out door venues, is quite different than it was, even as recently as twenty years ago. There are many factors that have influenced these changes, but among these, the expenses related to digital projection are significant.

Prior to the advent of digital, the operation of a drive-in theatre was a relatively low risk investment. In the past two decades, there have been a number of new builds in the northeastern United States. I can think of two of these locations that have not been able to convert due to the financial considerations of equipment acquisition. What was once a profitable interim use for idle land is now no longer a lucrative investment.

As you consider your options for the property, take a look at other seasonal theatres throughout your region and evaluate those which might reflect similarities with your market. I strongly suspect that many limited market locations, even those that have converted, could not sustain the demands imposed by the economics of building and operating a new drive-in today.

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Louis Bornwasser
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From: prospect ky usa
Registered: Mar 2005


 - posted 11-17-2016 07:04 AM      Profile for Louis Bornwasser   Author's Homepage   Email Louis Bornwasser   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Screen should be on the west side of the property (setting sun). Ideal is a bowl shape with the screen at the bottom.

Anything you can do to start early will make you money. Remember, with daylight time, some theatres can't start until 10 pm in June. Just being On at 8 will easily double your attendance. (Concessions will triple or better.) The profit is in the food.

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Barry Floyd
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Posts: 1050
From: Lebanon, Tennessee, USA
Registered: Mar 2000


 - posted 11-17-2016 11:15 AM      Profile for Barry Floyd   Author's Homepage   Email Barry Floyd   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I believe we have spoke via email before.

As someone who did this 13 years ago... DO NOT open a drive-in with less than two screens. Doesn't make financial sense.

I spent well over $700k to build mine 13 years ago as a single screen... and that doesn't include the costs of adding the second screen or the associated costs of converting to digital projection.

The good thing is, ours has been relatively successful and will be paid for free and clear in 6 years. We are getting ready to drop another $260k into expanding the concessions building, so that will add to the time it takes to pay it off, but the expansion will also help generate the funds necessary to pay it off.

Finding out information on ramp design, parking layouts, etc. is a pain. Parking ramps are a MUST HAVE not a want or desire. There are two ways to layout a parking field.. single ramped or double ramped. Single ramps have a gravel driveway in-between each row of parking. Double ramps have two rows of parking between gravel driveways. In a double ramped scenario, you gain roughly 1/3 more parking spaces by no wasting that space on gravel driveways that don't generate an income. My theatre is double ramped, and it works very well for us.

There are practically no civil engineers practicing today who have ever laid one of these out. Fortunately for me... I am a civil engineering designer by day so I did my own plans.

Check your local jurisdictions regarding zoning, available utilities, traffic studies, etc. It can get really expensive, really quick.

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Justin Hamaker
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From: Lakeport, CA USA
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 - posted 11-17-2016 06:12 PM      Profile for Justin Hamaker   Author's Homepage   Email Justin Hamaker   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Barry Floyd
DO NOT open a drive-in with less than two screens. Doesn't make financial sense.
The one exception to this I would make is if you have a hard top and are building the drive-in to basically be an extension of that business.

My drive-in is a single screen which sit directly behind our 5 screen hard top. While a second screen could expand the drive-in business, the primary advantage for us is the drive-in is a move-over screen for our cinema. We have opened a couple movies on the break at our drive-in, but usually the studios want the cinema first.

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


 - posted 11-17-2016 06:49 PM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Justin Hamaker
usually the studios want the cinema first
Out of curiousity, why? Assuming that your drive-in can hold more cars than your indoor houses have seats, wouldn't it be to the distributors' advantage to open at the drive-in? And, assuming that you have D-cinema in both your indoor and your drive-in, you could do matinees at the indoor house, too.

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Justin Hamaker
Film God

Posts: 2066
From: Lakeport, CA USA
Registered: Jan 2004


 - posted 11-17-2016 08:39 PM      Profile for Justin Hamaker   Author's Homepage   Email Justin Hamaker   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
In some cases it is that they want the cinema rather than the drive-in because they don't want to lose the matinee shows. Some times it's our decision because the percentage would be too high, especially when you add the co-feature. The studios also won't usually let us day and date the cinema and drive-in.

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Carsten Kurz
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From: Cologne, NRW, Germany
Registered: Aug 2009


 - posted 11-17-2016 08:45 PM      Profile for Carsten Kurz   Email Carsten Kurz   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Waybackmachine seems to have most of driveinworkshop covered:

http://web.archive.org/web/20040726104201/http://driveinworkshop.com/

- Carsten

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Dennis Benjamin
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Posts: 1402
From: Denton, MD
Registered: Feb 2002


 - posted 12-16-2016 04:39 AM      Profile for Dennis Benjamin   Author's Homepage   Email Dennis Benjamin   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I've written a business plan in the past for a Drive-In.

Through the research I did, I discovered the enormous amount of money involved.

Needless to say, my dreams of opening a Drive-In never happened.

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Tammy Rogers
Film Handler

Posts: 7
From: Buffalo, WV, US
Registered: Aug 2016


 - posted 03-15-2017 10:40 AM      Profile for Tammy Rogers   Email Tammy Rogers   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Update: We had a meeting with the local planning/zoning commission and found that our property is zoned properly for a theater, however not a drive-in theater. An amendment must be made to add that description to the list of acceptable uses so we don't have to pave everything. Currently it says roadways and parking must be paved, and we really don't want that (and can't afford it!). The amendment should be completed in the next couple of months, so now I'm working on design and budget. I'm just taking it one step at a time.

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Allan Barnes
Film Handler

Posts: 80
From: GRAND BEND, ONTARIO, CANADA
Registered: Mar 2009


 - posted 03-15-2017 06:49 PM      Profile for Allan Barnes   Author's Homepage   Email Allan Barnes   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Justin and Barry are CORRECT. You need two screens to book on release. Min.100 cars per screen. Shelby is GREAT but if you wanna go cheap try TELEPHONE SCREENS.... 40x60ft screen size with 3000-4000 watt digital projectors. Get THREE PHASE POWER and a CITY WATER LINE if possible. AND GOOD LUCK.

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Tammy Rogers
Film Handler

Posts: 7
From: Buffalo, WV, US
Registered: Aug 2016


 - posted 03-21-2017 11:28 AM      Profile for Tammy Rogers   Email Tammy Rogers   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Thanks for all your responses. While we're waiting on the zoning, my next step is to get a layout/design together to show to the bank. We have had a couple of meetings with a civil engineer, a spry 80-year old fellow who was probably working in the field the first time drive-ins were a fad, but he's never designed one. I've emailed Barry Floyd, who gave me some great pointers (thanks Barry!) but I was wondering if anyone could tell me how to figure out how big the screen needs to be based on the size of the field. To me that is the starting point. It's not really covered on the drive-in workshop. We have space for two fields, roughly 290 feet wide by 400 feet deep (which would include some setbacks and entrance roads). The screens would ideally be big enough for a smidgen of wow factor but not overkill. Projectors will be on the second floor of our concessions/bathrooms building located between the two, so how tall should they be and how far back should the first row start. We are planning on adding ramps as well so that needs to be figured in. My engineer guy has asked me to look up some design how-to's, but I can't find much. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and experience with me. It's more valuable than Google any day.
Tammy

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