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» Film-Tech Forum   » Community   » Film-Yak   » The appeal of drive-in movies (Page 1)

 
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Author Topic: The appeal of drive-in movies
Thomas Pitt
Master Film Handler

Posts: 265
From: Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK
Registered: May 2007


 - posted 02-19-2018 04:03 PM      Profile for Thomas Pitt   Email Thomas Pitt   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Being from the UK, it's very rare over here to find a drive-in movie theatre. I've just been wondering what is the actual appeal of watching movies in a drive-in compared to a traditional auditorium? I assume it's to do with being able to watch in the comfort of your own car, with the heating and volume level set to whatever you want. Of course a disadvantage is when it rains, it'll blur your view of the screen unless you have the wipers going constantly...

What about you guys? What do you think are the pros and cons of drive-in movies?

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Sam Graham
AKA: "The Evil Sam Graham". Wackiness ensues.

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From: Waukee, IA
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 - posted 02-19-2018 04:32 PM      Profile for Sam Graham   Author's Homepage   Email Sam Graham   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
There's a social aspect to it. A lot of people will set up chairs and blankets in front of their cars (especially in the front row) or back their pickup trucks or SUV's into their space and set up camp in the back.

The drive-in here has a nice lawn between the screen and the first row. Kids fill the area and toss Frisbees and balls before the show starts, then lay out on sleeping bags to watch the show.

Some of the people parked in the back, of course, aren't really there to watch the movie.

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Justin Hamaker
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From: Lakeport, CA USA
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 - posted 02-19-2018 04:35 PM      Profile for Justin Hamaker   Author's Homepage   Email Justin Hamaker   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I agree with Sam. Drive-ins are more about the social aspect of watching a movie than just watching a movie. Plus people like the independence of being in their own vehicle and/or setting up chairs. Plus a night at the drive-in is usually cheaper than a night at the indoor theatre for the same number of people.

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Steve Wilson
Film Handler

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From: Paoli, IN, USA
Registered: May 2004


 - posted 02-19-2018 05:50 PM      Profile for Steve Wilson   Author's Homepage   Email Steve Wilson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
at 62 years old, I long for the days of being on the back row with some cute chick! LOL

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Mike Blakesley
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From: Forsyth, Montana
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 - posted 02-19-2018 06:31 PM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I went to the drive-in countless times when I was in my teens and 20s. Hardly ever watched the movie. I was too busy wandering around socializing, as were most of my friends. We spent more time around the concession area and projection booth than anywhere else. Eventually I started working there and it was basically the same thing, with more of an emphasis on the booth.

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Martin Brooks
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From: Forest Hills, NY, USA
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 - posted 02-20-2018 12:34 AM      Profile for Martin Brooks   Author's Homepage   Email Martin Brooks   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
They're now rare in the U.S. as well. According to Wikipedia (for better or worse) in 2017, there were 330 left, compared to a peak of 4000 in the late 1950's. They list one in Fort Lauderdale, FL with 14 screens which also doubles as a giant flea market with a 180,000 square foot indoor building that houses 2000 vendors, but it's not clear whether it's still operating as a movie theater. Looking at it on Maps, it looks like at least some of the screens are ripped up.

For couples, drive-ins were a place to "make-out". For families, since many drive-ins charged by the carload, it was relatively inexpensive. And when they charged per-person, sometimes people would hide in the trunk. And many had playgrounds or even some amusement rides in addition to the food concession. Starting in the 1970's, many became flea markets during the day.

In the summer of '65, when "Help" was released, it ONLY played at a drive-in in Rockland County, NY, so I made my father take us. I wound up leaving the car and watching the movie from an outdoor seating area in front of the concession stand. I may have had bad food taste in those days, but I remember the concession food being pretty good.

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Mike Blakesley
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From: Forsyth, Montana
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 - posted 02-20-2018 10:07 AM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The concession at our drive-in used to sell these cellophane wrapped microwaveable hamburgers that had onion mixed in with the beef patty. They were insanely tasty. I never did find out who made them. Given how awesome they were, I'm sure they were unhealthy anyway, so it's probably a good thing I never found out.

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Barry Floyd
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 - posted 02-20-2018 10:15 AM      Profile for Barry Floyd   Author's Homepage   Email Barry Floyd   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The social aspect of it very much plays into the appeal of the drive-in. At my drive-in we have folks who've traveled from 40-50 miles away "just to come to the drive-in"... they don't have a clue what we're playing.

Families find it more economical, it still has sort of that retro-trendy factor that the 20-30 year old crowds are searching for, and teenagers... they still do what all teenagers have always done at the drive-in.

At an indoor theatre, "going to the movies" is 2 hours of what you do on a typical Friday or Saturday night. At the drive-in, the drive-in "IS" what you do on Friday or Saturday night. Many nights our customers get here 2 hours BEFORE the first movies start, and end up staying with us all night long. They are literally here from 6 p.m. until 1:30 a.m. It's the perfect storm of dinner, entertainment, desert, and more entertainment.

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Dave Bird
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From: Perth, Ontario, Canada
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 - posted 02-20-2018 10:39 AM      Profile for Dave Bird   Author's Homepage   Email Dave Bird   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Ditto to what most of the other drive-in owners here have said, it's very much a social thing, sort of a 6-8 hour "block party" without the booze, mostly families. About half of our crowd drives roughly an hour to visit. We're also situated in "lake country" so there are a lot of people who have spent all day on the water just extending the "vibe". The old days of not caring what's playing can still be somewhat true, but less and less I think, we play day and date and a bad program hurts our draw significantly. The picture and sound is now very, very good and on those nights when the sky is clear I'm not sure there's a more pleasant atmosphere to catch the latest film(s). But Barry's correct, I love going to movies myself in the off-season, but you go to see the film and leave, I sense people really perceive their night outdoors as a little more of a social outing. Typically kids meet at the playground, which leads to families meeting and for the "regulars", a whole little "community" starts to develop. Which ain't a bad thing in this day and age.

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Scott Jentsch
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From: New Berlin, WI, USA
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 - posted 02-26-2018 08:37 AM      Profile for Scott Jentsch   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Jentsch   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Martin Brooks
They're now rare in the U.S. as well. According to Wikipedia (for better or worse) in 2017, there were 330 left, compared to a peak of 4000 in the late 1950's. They list one in Fort Lauderdale, FL with 14 screens which also doubles as a giant flea market with a 180,000 square foot indoor building that houses 2000 vendors, but it's not clear whether it's still operating as a movie theater. Looking at it on Maps, it looks like at least some of the screens are ripped up.
The Swap Shop Drive-In on Sunrise Boulevard in Ft. Lauderdale is open and showing movies:
https://www.bigscreen.com/Marquee.php?theater=7916

It appears that they have seven simultaneous movies playing currently, but we do list them as having 14 screens. I am able to see 8 on Google Maps. Most appear to be ripped, so a storm must have gone through right before the overhead images were taken, or that's just the way they are.

Our records show that there are 371 drive-ins in the U.S. and Canada that are open, or were at the end of the 2017 season. That number fluctuates wildly as these operations are hard to track at times. I've gone through our records and tried to verify them and fill in details, such as web sites and facebook pages, but some don't have much in the way of marketing. For example, some web sites don't list an address, as I think they assume everyone knows where they are. I've gotten quite good at hunting down current and former drive-in operations while scanning Google Earth imagery...

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Lyle Romer
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From: Davie, FL, USA
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 - posted 02-26-2018 12:35 PM      Profile for Lyle Romer   Email Lyle Romer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
If I come up with some reason to drive in that direction, I'll take a look at the Swap Shop screens. I assume the damage was from Hurricane Irma back in September.

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Richard Fowler
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From: Ft. Lauderdale, FL, USA
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 - posted 02-26-2018 05:38 PM      Profile for Richard Fowler   Email Richard Fowler   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Preston Henn, the owner of the Thunderbird, recently died but had in his will that the family had to keep running the 14 plex.

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Monte L Fullmer
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From: Nampa, Idaho, USA
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 - posted 03-01-2018 03:09 PM      Profile for Monte L Fullmer   Email Monte L Fullmer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I began in this industry at a Drive-in (ozoner) and stayed there 5 years before I moved to a hardtop (indoor) location.

But, off and on, I found work at the drive-ins on the side.

Presently, I take care of two drive ins in my area as their repair and help guy.

Some owners are members of the UDITOA, being the United Drive-in Theatre Owners Association.

-Monte

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Frank Angel
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 - posted 03-16-2018 10:09 AM      Profile for Frank Angel   Author's Homepage   Email Frank Angel   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Wow, 14 screens -- that must have been an expensive conversion. How many projection booths? How do you design a DI like that and not have some screens facing the West and the setting sun, which of course is awful for keeping a reasonable starting time and still see an image.

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Jack Ondracek
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From: Port Orchard, WA, USA
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 - posted 03-16-2018 11:19 AM      Profile for Jack Ondracek   Author's Homepage   Email Jack Ondracek   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
While they have the original screen the place was built around, some older pictures showed projectors pointing at the white-painted walls of buildings. Show schedules are/were single-feature with 2 or more daily shows and the "lots", are mainly flat spaces between swap-meet attractions. Concessions are served to some screens by motorized food carts with K-Mart-style flashing beacons.

I'm told some "booths" could serve more than one "screen", but they were spread out all over the place. Makes you wonder what make-up / break-down and general evening monitoring must have been like back in their film days.

What I'd like to know is, what sort of community has enough empty space on their dial to accommodate 14 drive-in sound channels?

Their web site once mentioned a business jet charter they were running on the side, in addition to the movie and swap-meet operations. Really versatile folks over there!

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