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The Death of the American Drive-in

Soulskill posted about 8 months ago | from the radio-star-murder-suspected-in-odd-family-slaying dept.

Movies 236

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Claire Suddath writes in Businessweek that the number of drive-ins in America has dwindled from over 4,000 in the 1960s to about 360 today. Since Hollywood distributors are expected to stop producing movies in traditional 35 millimeter film by the end of this year and switch entirely to digital, America's last remaining drive-ins — the majority of which are still family-owned and seasonally operated — could soon be gone. 'We have challenges that other movie theaters don't,' says John Vincent, president of United Drive-In Theater Owners Association and the owner of Wellfleet Drive-In in Cape Cod, Mass. 'We have fewer screens and can only show one or two movies a night. Now we have to spend tens of thousands of dollars just to stay in business.' According to Vincent, only 150 drive-ins have converted to digital so far — the other 210 have until the end of the year either to get with the program or go out of business. It may seem silly to fret over the fate of 210 movie theaters whose business model is outdated, even compared with regular movie theaters, but Honda Motor Co. is offering help with a program called 'Project Drive-In.' The car company is planning to give away five digital projectors by the end of the year. Winners will be determined by voting from the public, which can be done online through Sept. 9 at ProjectDriveIn.com. 'Cars and drive-in theaters go hand in hand,' says Alicia Jones, manager of Honda & Acura social marketing, 'and it's our mission to save this slice of Americana that holds such nostalgia for many of us.'"

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236 comments

Guess It's Too Late (2)

rotorbudd (1242864) | about 8 months ago | (#44599453)

http://projectdrivein.com/ [projectdrivein.com]

    502 Bad Gateway

Re:Guess It's Too Late (4, Funny)

BSAtHome (455370) | about 8 months ago | (#44599559)

That is because the pirates got there first. The Drive-in closes because there are too many pirates. It is the secret reason!
Also, when there is too much rain, the pirates tend to raid the drive-in with their ships. A significant burden on the operators.

Re:Guess It's Too Late (3, Informative)

interval1066 (668936) | about 8 months ago | (#44600107)

That is because the pirates got there first.

Drive-ins were in decline long before the "pirate hordes" started pirating. I started dating a girl in '95, and we decided we wanted to go to a drive in one night. She knew of a drive-in she had frequnted in her life (she lived in the area all her life), so we go. Closed. We wound up at one the next town over. I've been noticing these places closing over the course of the last 30 years though.

Re:Guess It's Too Late (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | about 8 months ago | (#44600271)

According to the Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org], they've been in decline since their peak in the late 1950s and early 60s due to daylight savings time and colour television and- later on- the advent of video recorders and rentals.

Re:Guess It's Too Late (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44600645)

Either that or it is blocked by the goverment. Who knows?

Drive-In? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44599459)

Wait, it's a Drive-In, not a Drive-Through? Well, that explains
why I heard all those thuds when I drove through.

Re:Drive-In? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44599501)

Just be thankful it wasn't a drive-by.

Re:Drive-In? (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | about 8 months ago | (#44599589)

Wait, it's a Drive-In, not a Drive-Through?

Yeah, when I read "drive-in" I thought the OP was talking about bottle-shops. They're doing just fine with my custom... :-}

Re:Drive-In? (1)

zoomshorts (137587) | about 8 months ago | (#44599875)

Those LED advertising signs are good enough to use for animated displays. Just double the size of those billboards and all is done. I guess you do not pay attention. Why would anyone think of PROJECTORS?

Re:Drive-In? (3, Funny)

gl4ss (559668) | about 7 months ago | (#44600743)

for setting up a drive through movie just need a big printer and a loong stretch of road...

Since when are digital projectors thousands? (-1)

mysidia (191772) | about 8 months ago | (#44599481)

I do believe I picked up a brand new digital projector not too many years ago, and the charge from the online retailer was about 30 quid.

So why do they say tens of thousands?

Re:Since when are digital projectors thousands? (4, Informative)

pipatron (966506) | about 8 months ago | (#44599495)

Perhaps the requirements for displaying a bright image 100 feet away outdoors is higher than your pocket alarm clock LED projector?

Re:Since when are digital projectors thousands? (1)

Tx (96709) | about 8 months ago | (#44599509)

What size of cinema are you running with your projector?

Re:Since when are digital projectors thousands? (2)

dpryan (123256) | about 8 months ago | (#44599519)

In what world do you live where your cheapo home projector is the equivalent to that required in a drive-in?

Re:Since when are digital projectors thousands? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44599537)

I do believe I picked up a brand new digital projector not too many years ago, and the charge from the online retailer was about 30 quid.

So why do they say tens of thousands?

When a Slashdotter thinks everyone else couldn't possibly have missed something, does it ever occur to him or her that "hey maybe I am asking a stupid question and should Google this for 10 seconds first?" It doesn't seem to.

Re:Since when are digital projectors thousands? (4, Informative)

GrumpySteen (1250194) | about 8 months ago | (#44599543)

You might as well ask why a Lamborghini cost is six figures since you bought a CitroÃn C1 last week for less than ten thousand.

A good consumer level digital projector has to be able to project an image covering an area of twenty square feet or so before it becomes so dim that it's unpleasant and will be designed to work with a screen only ten or fifteen feet away. That requires only one or two thousand lumens of output. What you bought for 30 quid probably produces a few hundred lumens.

The digital projector for a theater has to project an image that will cover over a hundred square feet without being so dim that it's unpleasant and the screen is most likely fifty to a hundred feet away depending on the size of the theater. The output needed to do that is on the order of 20,000 lumens and up.

Re:Since when are digital projectors thousands? (2)

turbidostato (878842) | about 8 months ago | (#44599571)

"You might as well ask why a Lamborghini cost is six figures since you bought a CitroÃfn C1 last week for less than ten thousand."

Well, for a better car analogy is more like asking why a 16-wheeler is more expensive than my C1.

Re:Since when are digital projectors thousands? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44599895)

fwiw.. a "hundred square feet" is merely a 10 foot by 10 foot area. theater screens are many dozens times bigger than that and even more so for drive-in screen.

Re:Since when are digital projectors thousands? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44600223)

Light output is just one part. The other part is the fact that to play DCP (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Cinema_Package) delivered content the projector needs to establish secure (encrypted) communications between itself and the server actually playing back the media. I mean, what good is a secure playback system if you can just grab the decrypted content on it's way to the projector? This shit gets really expensive. And scary when it goes awry. Keys get generated so X film can play on Y server connected to Z projector between these hours. After sitting in the projection booth during the (attempted) premiere of a major motion picture, watching the director and a couple of producers trying, and failing, to get ahold of the distribution company to have new keys generated because the keys for the premiere had expired, it makes you laugh

Re:Since when are digital projectors thousands? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44600453)

The digital projector for a theater has to project an image that will cover over a hundred square feet without being so dim that it's unpleasant and the screen is most likely fifty to a hundred feet away depending on the size of the theater. The output needed to do that is on the order of 20,000 lumens and up.

Worse, this is a drive-in we're talking about. You just described an ordinary theater. Drive-ins require far more distance between the projector and the image AND a far larger image to boot, given that, by definition of the experience, the "seating" has to be the size of a moderately large parking lot.

Re:Since when are digital projectors thousands? (4, Interesting)

zayyd (2899959) | about 8 months ago | (#44600007)

I do believe I picked up a brand new digital projector not too many years ago, and the charge from the online retailer was about 30 quid.

So why do they say tens of thousands?

First of all, there's the significant issue of the massive amount of power and performance that's required from a theatre-class professional projector, rather than the comparatively tiny distance-throw, dimness, and short lifespan of a home or office HD projector. Quality, as a few have pointed out here, is a big factor. Also, to be that bright, these don't use LEDs of course: they use very hot bulbs that need to be cooled down with very loud and large fans and cooling systems.

Secondly, we're not just talking about the projectors themselves. Most of the major film distributors will not longer be providing films on actual 35mm film, which is what the drive-ins have been using. The major distributors have been reducing the number of "films" that are actually released on film; for some, the move to digital cinema is arguably more about the distribution methods than the viewer's experience. DCP (Digital Cinema Package) [wikipedia] [wikipedia.org] —boiled down to MPEG-4 on an encrypted harddrive — is how the films are being sent to theatres. What do you need in order in the industry to run the required DCP drives? You need a server that will decrypt, store, queue, and run everything: trailers, all the films for the week, your preshow, etc.

The end result is having to buy a very expensive, closet-sized projector and computer server that your projectionists need to be trained on how to use and you can't fix yourself.

As someone who works for a non-profit film cinématheque, this is a very big deal and worry for independent cinema, who, without access to DCP projectors, are increasingly relying on having to present theatre-class events from a Blu-ray burned in the distributor's office.

See here for more info about the market changes from 35mm to DCP in this reposted press release [isuppli.com]. [isuppli.com]

Re:Since when are digital projectors thousands? (5, Funny)

camperdave (969942) | about 8 months ago | (#44600147)

I do believe I picked up a brand new digital projector not too many years ago, and the charge from the online retailer was about 30 quid.

So why do they say tens of thousands?

Your 30 quid projector can display 300GB JPEG2000 files at 4096 x 1260 video at 24 frames per second with 12 bits each of red, green, and blue per pixel, and 16 channels of uncompressed audio at 24 bits and 48 kHz or 96 kHz sampling? Please let me know where you got it. I'd like to order one myself.

Drive in theaters (2)

Stumbles (602007) | about 8 months ago | (#44599487)

were a blast, much more of a social event or rather gathering and just plain fun.

How old are you? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44599525)

I would love to see the demographics of folks who still go to drive-in theaters.

And if the demographic is baby-boomers or older, then drive-ins are doomed because those folks are going to just die.

Hipsters? When the fad of retro-whatever-they-do wears off, that market will dry up.

Re:How old are you? (1)

Stumbles (602007) | about 8 months ago | (#44599563)

A demographics would be interesting. Haven't been to one in such a long time no idea what groups go to them nowadays.

Re: How old are you? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44599797)

When ours was still open the demographic was mostly families. You could get the whole family in for the price of 1 or 2 tickets at the sit down cinema. Lots of teens with dates as well, but they where walking around talking to friends, or in their car not watching the movie.

Re: How old are you? (1)

Grimbleton (1034446) | about 8 months ago | (#44600149)

Sounds nice. Our drive in had tickets the same price as the local theater.

Re: How old are you? (1)

wooferhound (546132) | about 7 months ago | (#44600473)

You could put 4 of your friends in the trunk of the car and save a tone of money . . .

Re: How old are you? (1)

Mashiki (184564) | about 7 months ago | (#44600785)

You could put 4 of your friends in the trunk of the car and save a tone of money . . .

A lot of the drive-in's up here in Canada have a lower rate if you bring more than 4 people with you. Usually 30-50% off the ticket price.

Re:How old are you? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44600221)

The reason no one goes to them today is because cars have long been unsuitable for, ahem, romance. Not to mention either a bunch of friends, or a couple of kids along. Nobody can move in a modern car. In a pre 1970's car, you could put the seat back - a long bench - and have plenty of room. Now you have two "bucket" seats, and a plastic console and stick-shift in between. The back seat's no better, with it's two indentations, and seat-belt buckles sticking up. Let's face it, cars aren't comfortable enough to sit and watch a movie in, let alone anything else.

Re:How old are you? (1)

rudy_wayne (414635) | about 8 months ago | (#44599587)

I grew up in the days when drive-ins were much more popular than they are today, and I always thought that watching a movie in your car was stupid and pointless, not mention uncomfortable.

  The only thing a drive-in was ever good for was allowing you to pretend that you're going to a movie when you really just want to get a handjob from your girlfriend.

Re:How old are you? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 8 months ago | (#44599891)

I worked at a drive-in theater as a teenager. Drive ins aren't the only ones having trouble, a few weeks ago the local paper had a story about a theater in a small town that may have to close if they can't raise the money. If I remember correctly, if this particular theater closes, people in that town would have to drive 40 miles to see a movie. I'm sure they're not the only one.

Re:How old are you? (4, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | about 8 months ago | (#44600211)

Hollywood's ditching of 35mm film distribution in favour of digital projection is going to put a lot of movie theatres out of business, not just Drive-ins. Of course, the real killer is the "home theatre". Today's high def TVs and the easy availability of content (Netflix, torrents, etc), topped with super high prices for snacks and candy is what is really taking chunks out of the cinema business.

Re:How old are you? (5, Interesting)

dugancent (2616577) | about 8 months ago | (#44599609)

The drive in here is insanly popular and has been for years. It's mainly high school students and has been for years. The age group attending never changed.

Re: How old are you? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44599791)

My wife and I are 34 and we typically go with friends around the same age. We have a modern drive in that was opened just a few years ago and it is packed every weekend. The demographic mix tends to be pretty young, mostly young families but also plenty of teens. The thing to do is take a nice comfortable chair and sit outside under the Summer sky. Last weekend we went and watched the thunderstorms roll in as we watched the movie. The quality of the picture isn't quite as nice but its good enough. The food is yummy too. I can't see ours going out of business but I know some in smaller towns may be impacted by the change. I hope most of them make the leap and keep this format alive.

Re: How old are you? (2)

jaymz666 (34050) | about 8 months ago | (#44599845)

Around here the demographics are everyone that wants to see a movie without driving an hour

Re:How old are you? (1)

egamma (572162) | about 8 months ago | (#44599853)

I would love to see the demographics of folks who still go to drive-in theaters.

And if the demographic is baby-boomers or older, then drive-ins are doomed because those folks are going to just die.

Hipsters? When the fad of retro-whatever-they-do wears off, that market will dry up.

I had a lot of fun going to the drive-in theater (2 screens, double headers on both) in Abilene, Texas, when I went to college there. That was in the 2002-2006 year range, I'm 29 now; hardly close to pushing up daisies. There's also a multi-screen complex about 30 minutes south of Dallas that I went to some years ago; I want to take my kids, maybe make it a group thing, when the kids get a little older.

Drive-ins are fun experiences, and I think some places let you pay "per car", it can be cheaper for larger groups. You can bring a pick-nick basket of food and save a ton of money.

Re:How old are you? (1)

T-Bone-T (1048702) | about 7 months ago | (#44600787)

I go to the one in Abilene, as well. I've also got a minivan with back seats that flip back. Tickets are cheaper than anywhere else and the food is good and cheap. Bonus points because each $8 ticket is for a double feature. We can put the kids to sleep in the back of the van and enjoy the movie. The only downside is bugs.

Re: How old are you? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44599909)

I go every chance I get... $20 for two movies for two people isnt bad. I also have 2 drive ons to choose from. One is now digital the other isnt and will probably close.

32 yo - i also take my 3 kids occasionally; never had a drive in where i grew up.

Re:How old are you? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44600093)

Retro will never die! It will always be, well... retro.

Re:How old are you? (1)

Grimbleton (1034446) | about 8 months ago | (#44600137)

My fiancee and I used to go to the drive-in that was half way between her house and mine when we were in high school. I have almost no memory of any of the movies we went to see.

Re:How old are you? (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 8 months ago | (#44600139)

I would love to see the demographics of folks who still go to drive-in theaters.

And if the demographic is baby-boomers or older, then drive-ins are doomed because those folks are going to just die.

Hipsters? When the fad of retro-whatever-they-do wears off, that market will dry up.

It probably depends on the area. I usually take my daughter and her friends to 2 or 3 drive in movies per season. Where I'm at it's a pretty good mix. Mostly families, but also some groups of teenagers too. The one thing I've noticed is that everyone I've spoken to at the drive-in tends to be very happy and friendly. I think it's more about being there than anything. The sound from a car stereo and/or a window speaker is not that great, and neither is the picture. But it seems to be fun for everyone.

Re: How old are you? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44600169)

And you obviously don't have kids. Before the age of between five and eight depending on the child, you can't take them to theaters, but Mom and Dad still want to see first run movies.

Take the family mover, some snacks, and load up to the drive-in. The alternative tends to be taking the inevitably screaming child to a theater (I bet you love that) or losing your sanity as a shut in.

Me? I dig the drive-in. I just wish there was one closer than 30 miles away. The local one, as the article stated, closed down rather than bear the enormous expense to upgrade.

Re:How old are you? (1)

Zak3056 (69287) | about 7 months ago | (#44600621)

I would love to see the demographics of folks who still go to drive-in theaters.

My wife and I go to the drive in about four times a year, and I have have say that the people we see there cover pretty much the entire spectrum, though the majority are family groups. The main draws for us are the family atmosphere, the price ($7/ea to see two or even three movies), plus no prohibition on outside food like regular theaters. They also have a great snack bar that's reasonably priced (because they're competing against outside food). We'd go more, but it's a 40 minute drive.

Re:Drive in theaters (1)

Mike Frett (2811077) | about 8 months ago | (#44599801)

Actually, they just built a brand new one in my area. So if it's dead, it sure didn't stop them from spending money to build the place. I been there a few times, brings in more of a crowd than the regular theater here.

This guy down there, AC, asking about demographics. They were mostly teenagers and parents with young kids in SUVs and I'm early-30's. Is that what you expected or did you expect elderly people? lol.

Re:Drive in theaters (1)

MachineShedFred (621896) | about 8 months ago | (#44600197)

There are three drive-in theaters within reasonable distance of Cincinnati, two of which are using digital projection already. I'm all set.

Re:Drive in theaters (1)

plopez (54068) | about 8 months ago | (#44600447)

One advantage of drive-ins is that every one I have visited, my last drive-in experience was a couple of years ago, has had a playground for the kids. It reduces the load on the parents when they want to see a real movie.

Dude... (3, Insightful)

Greyfox (87712) | about 8 months ago | (#44599565)

Those things were dead when I was a little boy, 30 years ago. I seem to recall running across two or three rotting corpses of drive-in theaters in my travels and have never seen one that didn't look like something that had been through a zombie apocalypse. Drive in theaters were a prop for sitcoms of my parent's generation. You know what I never heard growing up? "Hey! Let's all go to the drive-in theater!" I think mom may have mentioned going to one with her family a couple of times when she was a little girl, and she was a little girl back when we still had military bases in Libya. Saying drive-in theaters are dying is like saying faith in the flat earth is dying. If they were ever healthy, it was over half a century ago. There may be a handful of people trying to keep the games the pilgrims played alive, or writing yn fhe olde ftyle wyth ys for "i"s and fs for "s"s, but that doesn't mean those things are still alive!

Therefore the headline "The Death of the American Drive-In" comes about 50 years too late. It's not "news" anymore, and it hasn't been for as long as I've been alive.

Re:Dude... (1)

Tx (96709) | about 8 months ago | (#44599593)

It's a shame. I've never been to one, I don't think the exist here in the UK, but I can see some reasons why they would be cooler than a standard cinema. My car is much more comfortable than typical cinema seating, and I guess you're not forced to buy overpriced snacks, since I can't see them trying to police what people have in their cars. I guess people dicking around or using their phones would be less of an issue. If they broadcast the audio on an FM channel, so you could use your in-car audio rig to listen to the sound, that would be great. If there was such a thing near me, I'd definitely give it a shot.

Re:Dude... (4, Informative)

gigne (990887) | about 8 months ago | (#44599627)

Dude from the UK here. How the hel would we watch a movie through all the rain?

Micropower FM transmitters (1)

tepples (727027) | about 8 months ago | (#44599729)

How the hel would we watch a movie through all the rain?

That and Ofcom was slow to adopt a counterpart to the US's Part 15 rules that allow the theater operator broadcast a movie's sound over micropower FM radio. Only in December 2006 were even personal FM transmitters legalized [ofcom.org.uk].

Re:Dude... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#44600619)

there IS one in Manchester, its in a small parking lot holds around 50 cars, i think.
http://www.route66driveincinemas.co.uk/

Re:Dude... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44599731)

I got my first BJ at a drive-in.

Sex in the privacy of your car was the primary reason drive-ins were so popular.

Now kids fark everywhere.

Re:Dude... (1)

LongearedBat (1665481) | about 8 months ago | (#44600111)

Last year I went to a drive-in cinema [galaxydrivein.com.au] (the only one in WA though) and it was pretty busy with lots of families setting up camp for the evening. It was a pretty enjoyable experience. (First time for me.) Nice mood all around. We could control the volume and we could even talk if we wanted to. (BTW, my girlie and I did actually watch both the movies from the front seats of the car. Just sayin'.)

Re:Dude... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44600187)

Its basically the same as writing "The Death of the Horse-Carrage". Noone "killed" them, they simply outlived their time/usefullness. And beside, after 50 or 60 years without investing a dime (at least the standardized "zombie apocalypse"-look strongly suggests this) they complain that noone is coming anymore and they have to invest ""tens of thousands of dollars"? Bu-hu.

Re:Dude... (2)

fermion (181285) | about 8 months ago | (#44600257)

Drive in theaters and theaters in general are not popular because for many people the additional cost is not reflected in additional quality and user experience. Four people will cost $80 as opposed to $10 at home. Many movies are targeted to teen and young men as they will pay to take dates to silly movies, not drive ins as they were not raised on it.

That said implying the outdoor theatre is dead simply because operators are making a rational decision not to invest in their firms is a bit overreaching. There are two theaters in my city that show live and filmed entertainment. They are both free. They are both jam packed. We take picnics and blankets, walk about a mile, then sit for an evening of entertainment. On one saturday we were walking around and some kids were putting on shakespeare, so we sat and watched.

While it is critical to provide Hollywood a venue to maximize profits, that is not the only purpose of a theater.

Re:Dude... (1)

westlake (615356) | about 7 months ago | (#44600713)

Four people will cost $80 as opposed to $10 at home.

More like $25 to $30, Exclusive of $10 a car promotions.

Re:Dude... (1)

umafuckit (2980809) | about 8 months ago | (#44600363)

Saying drive-in theaters are dying is like saying faith in the flat earth is dying.

Off-topic, but interestingly faith in a flat Earth saw a resurgence in the 19th century. It was reaslised in about the 6th and 5th centuries BC that the Earth was spherical. It is a myth that the flat Earth model dominated the middle ages. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_earth [wikipedia.org] Instead, flat Earthers started to appear in the 19th and, freakishly, persist today: http://theflatearthsociety.org/cms/ [theflatearthsociety.org]

Re:Dude... (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | about 7 months ago | (#44600579)

Those things were dead when I was a little boy, 30 years ago.

Indeed... as I commented elsewhere in the thread [slashdot.org], Wikipedia claims that they've been in serious decline since their heyday in the late-50s and early-60s, i.e. for the past 50 years!

Drive-ins are one of those things that people associate with tail-finned cars of the late 50s. Indeed by the early-1970s they were *already* being invoked as a nostalgic symbol of that past era in David Bowie's retro-futuristic Drive-In Saturday [youtube.com]. Listen to the start of the song, which is pure late-50s doo-wop pastiche.

Re:Dude... (1)

westlake (615356) | about 7 months ago | (#44600667)

I seem to recall running across two or three rotting corpses of drive-in theaters in my travels and have never seen one that didn't look like something that had been through a zombie apocalypse. Drive in theaters were a prop for sitcoms of my parent's generation.

The successful Drive-In is regional and community oriented: Google Earth Drive-In Theater Map [drive-ins.com]

Hull's Drive-In [hullsdrivein.com] in Lexington, Virginia (pop. 7,000) is non-profit and digital, purchased for $75,000 in 2000 ---- roughly the cost of single-screen digital projection in 2013. Lexington is a university town, home to VMI

Locally we have some striking examples of art deco era theatrical restorations. It is a very different experience than the multiplex Not all of them are big city, big budget, projects. The cost of digital conversion is a huge strain on them as well.

Not dead yet (5, Informative)

tverbeek (457094) | about 8 months ago | (#44599577)

A new drive-in [dannyboysdrivein.com] (a mom-n-pop type operation) opened this year in West Michigan, and seems to be doing quite well, and there's a long-standing 4-screen drive-in complex [celebrationcinema.com] (owned by the local cinema chain) – already converted to digital – about an hour away. Meanwhile there's a popular weekly free-movies-in-the-park program in East Grand Rapids. Watching movies outdoors is still pretty popular, so if they're run properly, offering a social experience that people can't get in the living room or crowded into theater rows, there's no reason drive-ins can't stay in business.

Insanity (1, Interesting)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about 8 months ago | (#44599583)

Poor picture, poor sound, extra traffic headache getting in and out, constant noise and movement from other attendees. The drive-in was never about the film as anything but tinny, poorly reproduced background noise to the party.

Re:Insanity (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 8 months ago | (#44599659)

You should get a better car stereo if you have poor sound. They can't control that. Of course, if your drive-in is one of the tiny handful in the country which didn't convert to FM radio for their audio, then that's a problem... but it's not a problem inherent to drive-ins.

Re:Insanity (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44599703)

Drive-ins used to use tinny crappy speakers that you hung on the edge of your car window in the days before they could transmit the audio to your car stereo. Hence comments about the sound. I've actually started to go to the drive-in again since they've done away with those speakers. I'm lucky enough to have a couple of them close enough to make the trip to.

Re:Insanity (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 8 months ago | (#44599763)

Drive-ins used to use tinny crappy speakers that you hung on the edge of your car window in the days before they could transmit the audio to your car stereo. Hence comments about the sound

Yes, and that was over twenty years ago for even most of the drive-ins in bumfuck. I saw Rambo III in a drive-in with FM Radio for audio, up here in Lakeport, CA. Which is officially bumfuck. So what I want to know is, where in the shit do they not use radio for audio?

That depends on which country (1)

tepples (727027) | about 8 months ago | (#44599757)

Of course, if your drive-in is one of the tiny handful in the country which didn't convert to FM radio for their audio, then that's a problem

That depends on which country. The UK, for instance, didn't legalize personal FM transmitters until the end of 2006.

Re:That depends on which country (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 8 months ago | (#44599829)

That depends on which country. The UK, for instance, didn't legalize personal FM transmitters until the end of 2006.

And they didn't give out low-power licenses for a reduced cost, either? Typical. Guess that's what you get with a Monarchy [theguardian.com].

Drive-In Revival (5, Interesting)

tmosley (996283) | about 8 months ago | (#44599585)

At least here in North Texas, there has been a bit of a drive-in revival. Some guy built several of them, and they are really quite nice. So nice, in fact, that any time I want to see a movie, I go to the drive in rather than a regular theater. Their tickets are cheaper, at $6 per person, you always get a double feature (even sometimes one of the movies is garbage), and the snack bar has really good food for the same price you would pay at any other restaurant. Of course, you can bring your own food and drink as well.

Any drive ins that are struggling are likely mismanaged. They need to look at what the successful ones are doing and mimic them. So long as there aren't competing theaters in smaller towns, they should do just fine.

It's about quality (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 8 months ago | (#44599603)

Maybe 15 years ago I went to a drive-in with my grandparents (I was a kid at the time). Their town (a small rural town) had the only drive in theater I had ever seen and I wanted to see what it was like. The picture was terrible and the sound sucked. The experience really wasn't worth repeating.

Drive Ins were great for parents (5, Interesting)

TomGreenhaw (929233) | about 8 months ago | (#44599621)

My kids are grown up now, but when they were very young is was a great way for us to see a movie without having to get a baby sitter. Next time you hear a child act up in a theater, think to yourself, gee I wish those parents could take their kid to a drive in.

the last movie i seen at a drive in theature was (2)

FudRucker (866063) | about 8 months ago | (#44599671)

Heavy Metal back in 1981 or 1982 when it first came out, back then the war on drugs was not intensified by Ronald Reagan and sneaking a 6 pack of beer and smoking a little weed at the drive-in was no big deal about half the people at the drive-in was doing it

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heavy_Metal_(film) [wikipedia.org]

drive ins (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44599683)

Most drive ins are now flee markets

Re:drive ins (2)

Dogtanian (588974) | about 7 months ago | (#44600615)

Most drive ins are now flee markets

Well, if people are actively trying to get away from them, that'd explain why they're in trouble.

we just kickstarted a local theatre (2)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | about 8 months ago | (#44599787)

The local theatre in our town shows first run movies for about $3 a ticket. (Or about $8/person if you add popcorn and a drink.). Earlier this year we (and everyone else who has a family) chipped in a hundred bucks or so to a $70k kick starter campaign to switch two projectors over to digital. Mission accomplishes -

It used to be easier for a number of reasons (1)

The Second Horseman (121958) | about 8 months ago | (#44599813)

Part of the problem is that they're seasonal in a lot of parts of the country. Who wants to go to a drive-in in the North in the middle of winter? It also occurs to me that cars aren't as convenient for this as they used to be - larger cars, low bench seats up front so you could get several kids up there, plus the people in the back could see over better, more convertibles, etc.

At the same time, I'd love to see them become more popular again in places with a lot of seasonal visitors, etc. Why? Because people can talk to each other as much as they *(@@# want in their cars.

In the 1970's, there was a drive-in in my town in Rhode Island - the same family owned that, a cinema in what had been a USO club (now gone), and another (single screen) in what had been an actual theater. No first-run movies - but you could go for a $1 to $1.50 depending on the night. The drive-in closed well ahead of the two theaters. Then again, the town still had two soda-fountain drugstores in the mid-70's, so it had a certain "time capsule" feel to it.

As a side note, whenever I hear about drive-ins, I always think about this O. Winston Link photograph: http://www.linkmuseum.org/images/collex/NW-1103.jpg [linkmuseum.org]
(I'll also put a plug in to visit the Link Museum if you're ever near Roanoke, VA - it, and the Virginia Museum of Transportation - are great)

Re:It used to be easier for a number of reasons (4, Interesting)

peragrin (659227) | about 8 months ago | (#44600037)

Your not thinking correctly. You take a minivan or SUV and park it backwards. Lower all the seats flat and spread out.

you can have people on the ground, etc. you can talk to each other etc.

the big trick is someplaces limit how high up your tailgate can go so your not blocking other peoples view.

the death of all theaters. (1)

nimbius (983462) | about 8 months ago | (#44599825)

this isnt of course something new, as all theaters have experienced marked decreases in attendance. the problem with driveins is they couldnt compare to indoor theater projection quality and audio quality and so were quickly usurped. indoor theater owners in turn sat high on their horses raking in ticket and concession sales while theaters rotted. Todays theater, either outdoor or indoor, cannot compare with the average home theater. plush couches or dedicated recliner seating, audio systems that meet or exceed the quality of any commercial theater, clean floors and a quiet livingroom environment to enjoy the movie without patrons giggling or screaming or talking on cellphones. you can even pause to take a slash. You also dont have to sit through 25 minutes of coca cola commercials before even getting to the previews. That crap can roll by on mute while you're making popcorn or slipping into pajamas.

TFA was likely penned by a nostalgic baby boomer. the kind that force nat king cole over the PA systems of every major retailer in november and cant for the life of them figure out the self check-out lanes at the grocery store. Theaters, any theaters but broadway and live show, are for all intents and purposes completely dead. This is an excellent occasion as well. Outdoor theater meant piping FM or AM broadcast audio into your car from a 5-10 watt transciever at the concession stand. if you couldnt pick up the signal, you were relegated to a 2 pound metal box on a pole you listened to while watching the movie. Indoor theater conversely meant ridiculous ticket prices, disgusting food, filthy seating and the ever ubiquitous sticky floors of which on no occasion could you expect your complaints to be taken seriously.

Re:the death of all theaters. (1)

peragrin (659227) | about 8 months ago | (#44600047)

I love a good drive in but they are few and far between around my current place.

of course that said I watch more movies ondemand the week after they are released. I pay $4-5 and I get to change which spot I am sitting in during the movie if I want.

Re:the death of all theaters. (2)

Dogtanian (588974) | about 7 months ago | (#44600689)

TFA was likely penned by a nostalgic baby boomer. the kind that force nat king cole over the PA systems of every major retailer in november

Nat King Cole was mainly popular with adult audiences during his heyday of the late-1940s and the 1950s, i.e. mainly the *parents* of the baby-boom generation, and they'll be long-retired (and very elderly if they're still around).

Unless you were thinking of the second-hand nostalgia that seems to see a lot of 40s and 50s American tracks still associated with Christmas (and which I find cliched and boring- give me Slade any day!)

Ours Went Digital (1)

intoxination (1806616) | about 8 months ago | (#44599833)

We still have a drive-in a couple of miles from me in Southwest Ohio. A couple of months ago they completed their transition to digital. Always a decent amount of cars there and if it's a bigger opening, there's a line of cars waiting to get in. They do things like regular theaters, getting first run movies and even doing the midnight premieres on Thursdays of the really big names. Yeah Drive-ins are dying, but there is a very viable business model out there. We have one right here in Ohio.

If you miss drive-ins (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44599921)

Grab an iPad, and watch it while sitting in your car.

Save Drive-Ins but no other theater innovation? (1)

swb (14022) | about 8 months ago | (#44600113)

While I sort of share in the nostalgia for drive-ins (I first saw Star Wars at a drive in!), they seem very anachronistic, relying on cars, large amounts of real estate used really inefficiently, etc.

It makes me wonder, why is there no other innovation in the world of movie theaters? Incorporating good restaurant food, bars, better seating, etc? I can think of one theater with a bar and better food.

short term business model (1)

froth-bite (2777385) | about 8 months ago | (#44600145)

If your drive-in has 2K, maybe upgradeable to 4k projectors, then 8K comes out in a few years...what a difference to having 40 odd years of 35mm projectors!

A different view (1)

zipherx (1150327) | about 8 months ago | (#44600193)

In Denmark we have Zulu sommerbio [http://zulu.dk/zulu-sommerbio] that has been quite popular, but often been not worth attending due to weather. To me the american way, having drive-in movies, is really one piece of culture that was unique.

Smokey & the Bandit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44600215)

I saw Smokey and the Bandit at a drive-in. It was the first movie I ever saw that got a standing ovation for a scene.
James Bond, Godzilla. Oh well
No more sneaking in all your friends in the trunk of the car.
The theatre I used to go to even had a heater you could hang in the window for those chill nights.

Cars are dying, so... (0)

Door-opening Fascist (534466) | about 8 months ago | (#44600433)

The rate at which 16-year-olds are getting driver's licenses is dropping quickly, so it makes sense that anything attached to the car industry is going to be in its end days (see WNYC report [wnyc.org]). Look at who's buying cars, too - baby boomers are far more likely than young adults to be buying cars (see NBC Business report [nbcnews.com]). They have the money, plus they've had decades of conditioning that a car is a necessity of life. Young folk haven't been brainwashed, and are far more likely to structure their lives to use more efficient and enjoyable modes of transportation (walking, biking, public transit). Once the baby boomers are too old to drive, I bet this entire sector of the economy will shrink rapidly.

I'm 50 and they died when I was kid (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about 8 months ago | (#44600439)

saw some family movies with parents when I was about six, and certainly not since I was ten. Never had urge to find or drive to one as teen or young adult, nor did any of my friends, though some might have lingered in Chicago area.

My local drive in (1)

pjbgravely (751384) | about 7 months ago | (#44600477)

My local drive in theatre just went digital. All the other local theatres closed for lack of funds to go digital and then reopened when the local population raised the funds to buy them projectors. I am assuming the same thing happened with the drive in.

I have no problem driving 45 miles to see a movie, especially when it is in a leather reclining seat. Other people didn't like the drive and made sure their local theatre stayed open.

This is not in a hugely populated area, but upstate NY.

If you haven't... (1)

garyoa1 (2067072) | about 7 months ago | (#44600503)

...you should. If you've never been to one there's a certain magic to it. As they say, if you haven't tried it, don't knock it.

36 years old here... (1)

bigfinger76 (2923613) | about 7 months ago | (#44600551)

Our local drive-in recently shut down (it was one of the older ones and had fallen into disrepair). Until then, I always enjoyed going. Sometimes, quality is more than resolution or sound. Going to the drive-in was fun in and of itself. Bring a fresh pizza, some beers, a little grass, and a young woman. You simply can't beat the experience. Especially these days, when so many younger people have never been to one before. I'll miss it.

I heard it had more to do with... (1)

rsilvergun (571051) | about 7 months ago | (#44600557)

squeezing from the movie studios. I know they've been trying to get a cut of concessions for years now, and raising rates on movies in general. It probably doesn't help that it's damn near impossible for a small mom and pop to skirt the law and show stuff without paying full pop anymore. I've heard movies shipping on sealed, tracked DRM'd hard disks with their own network adapter that phones home these days.

Actually.. i'm suprised (1)

drewsup (990717) | about 7 months ago | (#44600687)

at the amount that are STILL open
http://www.driveintheater.com/drivlist.htm [driveintheater.com]
The ones in the Northeast must have a bitch of a time, when I was growing up in southern Maine, there were 4 within 10 miles distance of our house, now the closest one is Saco, glad to see it's still running . In addition to the short season, you had to contend with either small black Midges that really leave a welt, or the garden variety industrial size mozzies that take turns trying to bust in the window if they catch a wiff of your C02. Ahhh the good ol days....

for the record (1)

k6mfw (1182893) | about 7 months ago | (#44600771)

I actually had a date to a drive-in! Late 1970s to the Skyview Drive-in near Santa Cruz, CA. and even did a little making out. But she thought it all was a "conspiracy" because the movies (they showed two back in those days) was "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" and something else. Maybe she thought I was rushing (hey, don't we all young guys do that?) because she had blonde hair and star of that movie the same. oh well, not much happened after that but at least can say for what it's worth I have drive-in experience! I also liked to watch Dolly Parton in those beautiful dresses like what actresses of the 1950s wore.

I've been to Skyview several times, between movies they showed those corny snack bar clips and a very dated film on seriousness of stealing the speakers (these are corded with a durable steel cable that will tear your window if forget to put back on post). The film said every part has a serial #, they are really right. One time buddies and I went to the drive-in (they were showing a Green Hornet movie made from the TV series to cash in on Bruce Lee popularity), we took apart the speaker and sure enough ***every*** part had a unique number. We put it back together. Potentiometers and brackets are not worth much. Also on Saturdays were flea markets, bought me telephone ("Property of Bell System") for five bucks and wired up the phone in my room (disconnected bell so the TPC doesn't detect another phone), and having two phones in the house was really something.

Another drive-in for you all Silicon Valley people was Winchester Drive-ins used to be a Camdem and Hwy 17, huge complex with 5 or 6 screens, large snack bar with the worst hot dogs and junk food. Long gone and recently drove around that area but no remains as completely redone with roads and buildings. The days when the Russians were our enemies and the Iranians our friends.

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