First Arriving Network
First Arriving Network

Morning Lineup – August 14

Wednesday Morning – What's Playing At The Drive-In?

You may be surprised to hear this, but there are still more than 300 drive-in movie sites in the United States.  To be precise, 368 are still cranking out the summer's evening entertainment that many of us have good memories of.  Forty years ago there were more than 4,000 of them in cities and country pastures all around.  Back in those days you pulled up next to a metal stanchion that had a crackly speaker connected to a cable about 8 feet long that you would hook on your window frame.  Today it's a little different in that the sound track is played over a low-signal radio frequency that you tune in on your car, or portable, radio.  Not just better sound, but cheaper maintenance, too.

Ruskin Drive-In

Many of them had playgrounds where early arrivals could send their wee tots to play and tire themselves out before the movie started so that they would sleep quietly in the back seat while mom and dad enjoyed the flick.

But two things happened that sent the numbers of drive-ins plunging.  First came along bigger-screen television sets with better picture clarity, followed immediately with the video cassette player (and vcr rental stores).  Suddenly everybody started staying home to watch their movies where the popcorn was a lot cheaper and movie started at whatever time was convenient for you.

Now it appears that the drive-in theater concept might be going extinct except for a very few hardy and successful locations.  The big game-breaker here is the conversion within the movie entertainment industry from celluloid film prints to digital projection machines.  No more heavy, 60-lb. metal cases holding big reels of 35mm films.  Just a couple of computer disks that are easy to handle and far cheaper to transport from one theater to another.

The cost of upgrading a projection room from film to digital can range from $60,000 to $85,000 and that is a prohibitive outlay for most meadow movies who are working on nickel and dime markups.

Enter now Honda Motors who want to help "save the drive-in" and are kicking off a campaign by setting an example by donating the conversion costs to five worthy drive-ins with the hope that others will be awakened to the imminent threat to our cultural history and chip in to help out.  Project Drive-In has produced this informative video that explains the threat and what is being done to help save them:


Please keep this in mind and perhaps you can find a way to help out.  It's not very often that the grass roots can rise up and preserve something that everyone has enjoyed sometime in their past.

Now let's find some new enjoyment in getting equipment checked out, and grab the clip boards.  I'll step on back to the snack bar and make sure the Bunn-O-Matic is ready for the crowd.  See you at showtime.

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