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TOPIC: why do drive in's get to charge less?

why do drive in's get to charge less? 08 Jul 2011 16:43 #36629

  • Mike
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Can one of our drive in buddies help us out here? Drive In theatres can split first run films on opening night. Why is this allowed when to do so with a hard top would put you off service.? Some theatres let kids in for free? How is this possible? I understand the outdoors is a hard place to make a living but why is the playing field uneven?
Michael Hurley
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Re: why do drive in's get to charge less? 09 Jul 2011 04:15 #36630

  • rodeojack
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Mike wrote:
Can one of our drive in buddies help us out here? Drive In theatres can split first run films on opening night. Why is this allowed when to do so with a hard top would put you off service.? Some theatres let kids in for free? How is this possible? I understand the outdoors is a hard place to make a living but why is the playing field uneven?

Well.... to start with, the drive-in double feature may benefit somewhat from a bit of grandfathering. Most drive-ins always showed doubles. When I was a kid, first features were quite a bit less than they are now (at the subrun level), and seconds were usually flat... somewhere between $25 & 50, IIRC.

There's still a bit of voodoo at work, and after 40 years in the business, I don't profess to know all of it, but one thing that works for the studios is exactly what you're asking about. In reality, it's not so much a "split" as a "combo". Let's say a studio has a really big show coming up. They offer a picture that maybe didn't perform so well as a second at a really good rate. The drive-in does NOT charge separately for the films and the studio can (and does) claim the total gross toward BOTH features. In a small way, the arrangement works for both sides. As the main feature ages & its percentage drops, you can combine it with co-features that might be a bit more expensive, in order to keep the screen relatively fresh. Remember... we aren't booking two new films & running them together. The percentages would kill us.

I can't imagine the same deal working for indoor theatres these days. I do remember a few that did doubles, but it was a long time ago. For one thing, you don't get the turnover that's so important to the multiplexes, because your one ticket price is now keeping the auditorium busy for twice the hours. That doesn't work very well for the exhibitor, and is probably the main reason not to consider doubles.

Technically speaking though, if you wanted to make double features your way of doing business, there's no reason I can think of why you couldn't book the way we do.

As for how we charge for kids (or not)... A couple of studios have insisted on age 4 being the minimum for free admission. Other studios haven't touched the subject. This is another "tradition" that survives in places. Before the studio demand, there were drive-ins around here that let kids under 12 in for free. Others, like me, charge less, but within reasonable shouting distance of full price. The thinking about letting the really young kids in free is that we start our shows really late in the summer. Many of those kids are likely to be asleep soon after. Letting them in free lets the parents consider bringing them along, instead of hiring a sitter. They like that. They also buy snacks for the little ones, which adds a nice boost to the per-caps.

Again... technically speaking, there's no reason I know of why you couldn't charge like we do. But given that you can open as early and close as late as you like, why would you want to?
Last Edit: 09 Jul 2011 04:36 by rodeojack.
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