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

Multimedia In US, Decision Expected Soon in Racially Charged Case

Missouri town, many Americans on edge over whether jurors will indict white police officer in August shooting death of unarmed black teen More

Corruption Fighters Want More From World’s Strongest Nations

Anti-corruption activists say final communique fell short of expectations and failed to fully address systemic problems More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project 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.
Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Faminei
X
Daniel Schearf
November 23, 2014 4:32 PM
During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video Law Enforcement, Activists in Ferguson Agree to Keep Peace

Authorities in Ferguson, Missouri, say they have agreed with protest leaders to maintain peace when a grand jury reaches its decision on whether to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of a black teenager. Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, has been the scene of intermittent violence since the August 9 shooting intensified long-simmering antagonism between the police and the African-American community. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Soul Lounge

Avery Sunshine is known for her irresistible combination of soul, jazz and gospel influences. She’s traveled the world entertaining audiences with her powerful voice, inspiring lyrics and infectious spirit. She joins host Shawna Renee on "The Soul Lounge" to perform and share the stories behind her new album, "The Sun Room."