You may have overheard your grandparents recalling their memorable experiences in movie drive-ins. Back in the day, people would watch movies inside cars as a fun way to spend a Friday night. It may not be as famous as it once was, but movie drive-ins still exist today.
Today, there are around 300 drive-in theaters left operating in the US. The top three states that still have these nostalgic places are New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
People nowadays can still capture the magic of drive-in theaters, whether they know the concept or not. Those in New York may still be able to enjoy the nostalgia that drive-in theaters provide; other people find some way to spice up movie night. In Utah, people consider drive-in theaters when they want something unique for their party rental services, especially when they want their guests to have a vintage experience. But how did they start?
Origins and Mainstream Popularity
Drive-ins have been around since the 1910s, but were officially patented in 1933 in New Jersey. Richard Hollingshead, the creator, came up with the idea after people were unable to fit in small movie seats. During this time, drive-ins were advertised for families. The popularity of drive-ins spread across the country and all over the world during the 50s and 60s. Since then, there were over 4,000 drive-in theaters across America and remained to be popular options for families and date nights.
The oil crisis of the 1970s made it harder for drive-ins to make a profit. Drive-ins began losing the family-friendly approach and began showing films targeted to adults. Over time, developers started selling land to make room for larger establishments such as malls and commercial buildings. The VCR also gained mainstream attention and encouraged people to watch movies at home.
Movie drive-ins experienced a revival during the 1990s and s aw numerous outdoor construction. While not all theaters closed down during the 70s, others were showing movies of the time and engaged in other ventures. During the day, lot owners of drive-ins capitalized on flea markets and concession stands to make more money.
Modern drive-ins have also started transitioning from 35-millimeter film to digital methods of projection. Owners of drive-ins today have also stated the need to update their equipment, as it was better to stay ahead and avoid getting left behind.
What it Takes
Opening up your own drive-in business is possible if you wish to recapture the nostalgia they provide.
The first thing to look at is a property or an open area of land. Aside from being large enough for restrooms and concession stands, the land should have limited exposure to light sources and have visual barriers.
Next, get yourself a movie screen and a good sound system that can play through vehicle noises. Make sure cars have individual markers for easy and convenient parking.
You also need to get permission from film studios to show their movies. Studios can charge around 50%, so make sure your prices can accommodate this amount while earning a profit.
Once permissions have been granted, it’s time to create a concession stand for quick access to food and drink. Similar to traditional movie theaters, make prices reasonable for the convenience of your patrons.
Lastly, you’ll want to promote your drive-in business and encourage people to experience it themselves. What you’ll have to do is innovate. Drive-ins have become nearly obsolete, but are still running to this day. Aside from the movie and food, give customers a reason for coming back by showing a rich selection of films and providing service that only you can offer.