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» Film-Tech Forum   » Community   » Film-Yak   » Drive-in gets ticket for "noise," then it's thrown out of court (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Drive-in gets ticket for "noise," then it's thrown out of court
Mike Blakesley
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From: Forsyth, Montana
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 - posted 12-02-2017 09:58 PM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 

CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. - The court battle over noise concerns at an iconic movie theater in Christiansburg has come to an end.

On Tuesday, a Montgomery County judge dismissed the case against Starlite Drive-In.

Police ticketed the business for a noise disturbance in May. Owners of the local landmark say they recently had to move away from in-car speakers due to the cost. But people who live nearby complained about the volume of the new sound system.

According to the town ordinance, noise should not be plainly audible from 50 feet away or more.

Attorneys argued that the drive-in was exempt from that because it's part of their operations.

"I'm excited to let the word be known that we're going to play movies the way they're supposed to be played and spread the word around that come spring, you're going to be able to hear a movie," said Peggy Beasley, owner of Starlite.

Starlite has been a popular spot for the Christiansburg area since 1953.


(Mike here)

What the hell kind of sound system do you use to play outdoor sound at a drive-in? Is it a weatherproof version of a regular cinema system (suitably beefed up for the larger area) or what? I'd think the windshield and other car-body barriers would make it sound weird to be listening to sound coming from outside the car.


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James Westbrook
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From: Lubbock, Texas, Usa
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 - posted 12-02-2017 11:55 PM      Profile for James Westbrook   Email James Westbrook   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I would have thought the owner had installed an FM Stereo broadcast system for the drive-in, although a lot of residents would be able to receive the signals inside their homes via their FM radios...I looked at the satellite map and there are a lot of homes around this drive-in.

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Brad Miller

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From: Plano, TX (36.2 miles NW of Rockwall)
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 - posted 12-03-2017 01:13 AM      Profile for Brad Miller   Author's Homepage   Email Brad Miller       Edit/Delete Post 
Several of those K-Mart bullhorns would sound lovely. [Wink]

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Sam D. Chavez
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From: Martinez, CA USA
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 - posted 12-03-2017 11:50 AM      Profile for Sam D. Chavez   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I'm sure we've all heard a loud car system drive by with the windows all closed and yet hitting SPL's of over 95dB. One or more of these cars went to the DI and sat there smoking and having a great time. This was enabled by switching over to an FM system from a tiny pole car speaker is likely the the difference. I pity the neighbors.

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Steve Guttag
We forgot the crackers Gromit!!!

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From: Annapolis, MD
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I think the excuse of maintaining the pole speakers is mostly bogus. We have drive ins that we support and they have kept the pole speakers out of nostalgia. They also have FM

The speaker in the pole speakers are pretty cheap as are the transformers and pots. The only sizable expense is when one has to dig up the buried lines and replace (they don't last forever). Amplifiers also tend to have a rough time in drive-ins (has been my experience). Their failures are almost always "violent with charred remains). But okay, that is one of the consumables in Drive-Ins. Typically, if one keeps their speaker/light lines in good order, fuses their ramps and keeps the speakers in good repair, things don't get out of hand.

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Adam Martin
I'm not even gonna point out the irony.

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From: Dallas, TX
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One or two photos on their Facebook page show portable speakers below the screen. AND they have FM sound. I'm siding with the neighbors on this one.

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Frank Angel
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From: Brooklyn NY USA
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 - posted 12-06-2017 02:23 PM      Profile for Frank Angel   Author's Homepage   Email Frank Angel   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I don't get it. If they have FM sound, why do they need a "live" system at the screen? First off, the delay between the FM sound in the cars toward the back of the lot will be significant and create an awful amount of echo. If you are ever on a DI lot on a warm night where the car windows are all open, even the sound from the wild variety of distances of the cars makes the sound very echo-y. At the extreme distances, the sound might not even be in lipsync if they are just listening to the "live" sound located at the screen.

I could see setting up some Earthquake Cerwin-Vega folded horn bins below the screen just for kicking out some bottom end SPLs- on-steroids, something that most car systems won't give you. But then, if you think the curmudgeony old neighbors were pissed off before they sicced the cops on the DI, wait till they hear nothing but bottom end power thumps and explosions! hehehe And of course now the DI has the law on their side....the disgruntled neighbors should have kept their mouths and thought twice about taking the DI to court.

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Dave Bird
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 - posted 12-07-2017 09:07 AM      Profile for Dave Bird   Author's Homepage   Email Dave Bird   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Not sure why they thought they needed any speakers at all. I'd be biased, our place killed the speakers long before we had it, but even with a couple dozen cars on the field, you can generally walk around and still hear the sound just fine. We keep a couple outdoor speakers outside the front of the snack bar, people like to watch from there waiting for others to finish up inside. But yes, putting any at the screen and that's another 100 feet + from where the bulk of the people are, there'd have to be a bit of a lag....

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Jack Ondracek
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From: Port Orchard, WA, USA
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 - posted 12-07-2017 01:28 PM      Profile for Jack Ondracek   Author's Homepage   Email Jack Ondracek   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The "lag" that's being discussed here is not pleasant to deal with, if you have a relatively decent-sized field. In our large field our screen is tilted toward the original booth, which means a loud radio in the front rows can be heard in the back of the place, far enough removed from real-time to be disturbing.

We used to keep our pole speakers turned up for the sake of ambience, but that's no longer necessary. As Dave says, on some days you don't need your own radio at all.

Noise levels at our place are somewhat self-regulating. Because we have 3 screens, I can't let loud radios and subwoofers get out of hand. Usually, complimenting the customer on their ear-blaster, then asking them to turn it down or, in the case of the subwoofer... off... is good enough.

We don't pass the sub channel through our FM system. Even then...

What's funny(?) is how fast after-market sound systems will knock your battery out. Sometimes, we're jump starting people before the show even starts.

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Jack Ondracek
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Saw the picture of the PA system they've put under their screen. I have a hunch the injunction isn't going to be the last word...

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Louis Bornwasser
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From: prospect ky usa
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 - posted 01-20-2018 11:01 AM      Profile for Louis Bornwasser   Author's Homepage   Email Louis Bornwasser   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
If you antagonize neighbors enough, they will use their shotguns. FM should be sufficient unless you don't have control. I am assuming that the FM is a good one.

One trick I used is to use a 1 watt FM (illegal) but mount the antenna 6 inches off the ground. Local coverage is good/excellent but it does not "travel." Proper level control on the FM is essential.

A couple of small horn speakers on the stand aimed downward will allow cars parked nearby some service.

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Kenneth Wuepper
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 - posted 01-29-2018 06:19 PM      Profile for Kenneth Wuepper   Email Kenneth Wuepper   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
When the Twi-Lite here closed, they were using a "shorted transmission line" and AM transmission.

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Timothy Eiler
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 - posted 01-30-2018 11:41 AM      Profile for Timothy Eiler   Author's Homepage   Email Timothy Eiler   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
At First i was going to say if you dont like noise from the Drive-In you shouldn't have moved close to it. BUT in the article It talks about a six speaker sound system on top of the Snack bar/booth as a replacement for the in car speaker SO Im on the Neighbors side Now web page
But that summer tradition of outdoor movie viewing may be endangered by a conflict over the volume of the shows.

"Apparently they think it's too loud," Atkins said.

"They" are some of the residents in the surrounding neighborhoods, who have complained about noise coming from the drive-in. Once this past summer, Christiansburg Police Chief Mark Sisson went out to the local movie destination to impose an appropriate volume level.

The noise problems go back to the spring.

Before the start of its viewing season in April, the Starlite's operators had grown frustrated with the expense of replacing the traditional car-mounted speakers offered at each parking space. Atkins said patrons would often drive off with the speakers still attached to their car windows, tearing them from the poles to which they were wired. Other times, speakers were driven over or stolen, he said. The losses amounted to hundreds of dollars.

Starlite patrons can tune in to the movie soundtracks on their vehicle radios. But Atkins said some customers fear leaving on their radios will run down their vehicle batteries. To provide the necessary sound, the theater replaced its old speakers with a six-speaker sound system sitting atop the building that houses the projection booth and snack bar.

Patrons like the volume set at level seven, according to the drive-in. But some neighbors found it too loud. Dropping the level to five can make hearing movie dialogue challenging, and owner Peggy Beasley said doing so has cost her some business this year.

"This was a bad season … I didn't make any money," Beasley said. She added that whatever profits she makes during drive-in season must support her through the off-season. "People who had been here couldn't come back because they couldn't hear the movie."

After a few months of complaints, Sisson visited the grounds one night in August and spent three hours adjusting the sound levels and evaluating their impact on surrounding neighborhoods, Christiansburg spokeswoman Melissa Powell wrote in an email.

"The owners agreed to show the first movie at 5.0 volume, which was reduced from their normal level of 5.5," Powell wrote. "They also agreed to show the second movie at 4.0 volume, which [the] chief felt was within the town's current ordinance."

A petition on addressed to town Mayor Mike Barber is now circulating and asking officials to revisit the volume issue. The petition, which had garnered 1,177 signatures by Thursday afternoon, argues the currently levels have frustrated regular customers.

One signer, Tim Hall of Christiansburg, wrote on the site: "Shouldn't the town's goal be to help local businesses, not make it harder for them to survive?"

Mary Arnold of Christiansburg wrote: "Sound levels at the high school football games are higher than at the Starlite. This business has thrived longer than most local businesses. Don't cut off your nose to spite your face! Support this family friendly business!"

But officials disagree.

"The volume levels have to comply with town ordinance, and at the higher level, they were not in compliance," Powell said. "It would take an amendment to the town ordinance to change that."

The petition calls for supporters to appear at an Oct. 25 town council meeting to express their concerns. Beasley and Atkins point to a list of 16 exemptions from the noise ordinance allowed by the town. They argue their business also should get a pass.

Beasley and Atkins more specifically pointed to this exemption: "Sounds generated in business, industrial and mixed-use zoning districts that are necessary and incidental to the uses permitted therein."

Barber said that after consulting with the town attorney, he believes the Startlite does not fit that exemption.

Barber said he has himself directly responded to the numerous Facebook comments and questions on the matter, repeatedly explaining the restrictions of the noise ordinance. The town is not trying to put the Starlite out of business, but it also needs to address citizen concerns, the mayor said

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Barry Floyd
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Starlite patrons can tune in to the movie soundtracks on their vehicle radios. But Atkins said some customers fear leaving on their radios will run down their vehicle batteries.
We have the same issue at our drive-in every night, but we invested in a simple battery "jump box" that we can go out and "jump off" a car to get them home if they happen to run their battery down.

Jack is "spot on" about aftermarket sound systems in cars. They are always the first ones to need a jump.

In this day and age, there is no reason for outdoor speakers on the roof of the concessions building.

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Frank Cox
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I guess it shows how little I know about drive-ins, but I never would have dreamed that anyone would actually install big speakers like that in a drive-in. I always figured that either pole-mounted or radio transmission was all there was and would be.

Put up a big fence and everything's nicely contained inside.

But outdoor speakers? I'd be mad if I lived there, too.

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