News / Arts & Entertainment

Drive-in Movies in US Still Draw Crowds

Drive-in Movies Still Capture Large Audiencesi
X
July 18, 2013 11:31 PM
Drive-in movie theaters were once a vibrant part of American culture. These outdoor theaters with huge screens reached their peak in the late 1950s with more than 4,000 of them across the U.S. These days it's tough to find one. However, some drive-ins still bring in big crowds just like the old days. VOA’s June Soh takes us to one in Virginia.
June Soh
Drive-in movie theaters were once a vibrant part of American culture. The outdoor theaters with huge screens reached their peak in the late 1950s with more than 4,000 of  them across the US.  These days it's tough to find one.  However, some drive-ins still bring in big crowds just like the old days.  

Cars line up at the entrance to the Family Drive-In Theater in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. It's about 130 kilometers from Washington, D.C., where ticket attendant still great visitors cheerfully.

Shannon Scott and her family, like many others, arrived here more than two hours before the scheduled show.

“You get the ambiance, you get the fun concession stand," Scott said. "You get to wait for the dark so there is family time together.”   

Since her family discovered Family Drive-In three years ago, Scott said they have often made the hour and a half drive to enjoy two movies for less than the price of one where she lives.

“It's a beautiful drive," she said. "It is worth it to come here all the time. We love it."

The first drive-in opened in the eastern U.S. state of New Jersey in 1933. By 1958, there were 4,000 in the United States. They began to disappear rapidly in the 1970s and 80s. Today, fewer than 400 are still operating.   

Jim Kopp owns Family Drive-in.

“The drive-ins were built on the edge of towns," he said. "And as the towns were expanded, the price of land started to go higher. The land was more valuable than the business. So a lot of drive-ins lost to the townhouse developments and the retail developments.”

In the early years, drive-ins were a popular date destination. Now they mostly attract families. Kopp's theater even has a playground where children can play before the movies start.  

Fifteen members of Fred Cunliffe's family drove from Texas, North Carolina and other parts of Virginia for a show.

"It is something that we used to do as kids with my parents," he said. "So we decided it will be a really nice family event to come to the drive-in and let the kids get to see everything going on.”  

Some nearby hotels now offer special rates for people who drive in.

"We have had a lot of guests that come from very far and wide to see the drive in theater," said James Revere, from the Holiday Inn Express.

Family Drive-In can fit up to 500 cars on its lot and plays new releases on its two screens. On a good night, Kopp says, he may sell as many as 1500 tickets.

“Majority of movie ticket sales goes to the studios for a film rental. They take up to 70 percent of the box office takes," said Kopp.

So the theater maintains itself through the sale of food and drink. And there's a new challenge. Drive-ins will have to convert to digital projection by the end of the year, when movie studios stop distributing 35 millimeter films.

“Seventy thousand dollars per projector, so for my theater, it is 140 thousand dollars’ worth of debt that I have to take on to go to digital," Kopp said.

Some drive-ins may not survive. Yet fans hope to enjoy movies under the stars for years to come.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the latest edition of "Beyond Category" blues singer and guitarist Corey Harris performs with his band and talks about his travels in West Africa tracing the roots of the blues.