Early this year, the future of the
That would have left the
But a new owner stepped up and made the projection switch and other upgrades. This weekend the
"We were able to save them, and we're proud of that," said
Drive-in theaters, deemed by many as cultural dinosaurs, are enjoying some success in fighting off extinction.
The nation once had more than 4,000 drive-in screens, but changing tastes, higher land values and aging owners whittled them down over the decades to 604 by last year. Many in the business saw the cost of going to digital projection, roughly
Drive-ins aren't out of the woods yet, but more than half of the remaining screens have already made the jump to digital.
"It's going more our way -- more than anyone thought it would," said
They both grew their businesses, including drive-in theaters. In 1980, their families joined forces creating
B&B once had 14 outdoor screens. But like others, it had cooled on the prospects for drive-ins. Despite a sentimental attachment to them, it was down to just one in
The company took a look and decided that the drive-ins were actually a pretty good bet. The market was big enough to support them, and families, looking for some inexpensive entertainment, seemed willing to give them a second look. The reopened drive-ins don't charge admission for those 11 and younger, which is fairly typical for drive-ins, including at Boulevard.
"We felt like it would be a good time to get back in,"
The deal closed in March, and since then the switch to digital projection has been completed. Movie screens were repainted, and restrooms and the concession stand were upgraded. The menu has been expanded, including adding corn dogs and ice cream. Credit cards will be accepted at the
The grand opening this week comes with some drive-in flair. The first 50 customers in movie-themed decorated cars on Friday were to receive free popcorn for a year. Everyone else attending Friday and Saturday who buys a ticket will get free popcorn during those visits.
The change in ownership is a relief to
"I'm pleased as punch," he said.
Smith, who worked at the
"For an old geezer like me I wasn't sure about it," said Smith, who is 67. "It was more than this little guy could handle."
Drive-ins and their owners have long had their quirky side. His parents named their kids after people they saw in movie credits. Smith got his first name when they saw a film produced by Darryl Zanuck.
"Why wouldn't I end up in the movie business?" he joked.
Drive-ins got their start, according to the
She was supposedly too big for the local theater's seats, so he put a projector on his car's hood and tied two sheets to trees for the screen. He toyed with the commercial possibilities and created a ramp system for cars to park at different heights so everyone could see the movie. He got a patent and in 1933 opened a drive-in theater.
Independent types have been drawn to the business ever since.
Vogel, of the drive-in owners group, said it was great news the
"The whole world has become a rubber stamp, except for drive-ins," he said.
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