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Drive In, The 4 year plan... 18 Dec 2012 09:09 #39591

  • Joey
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Okay,obviously Im new here so please bear with me and my noobness. I decided about 2 days ago that I might like to open a drive in theater in my town ( panamacity.areaconnect.com/statistics.htm )I had previously put together a business plan to start up a mobile paintball business but was unable to secure funding due to the economic situation of the country and how the local banks reacted to it. My area is a turist destination and is supported by 3 first run and 1 dollar theater currently. My idea is to use something like an airscreen so that I can be moblie for special events and such. I have no idea on what type of projectors to look at or how to go about getting in touch with brokers. I'm thinking of going to the nearest drive in and trying to set up a meet with the owner or general manager to do a Q&A and maybe buy them lunch or something for their time. When I went through my ordeal with the paintball biz i found out that my local officals are pretty open to assisting with new businesses, so I don't expect to have many zoning issues. I know I need to put together a business plan and secure funds, but I wanted to start looking now for the questions I don't know to ask. I dont plan to rush into this just yet. I just want to be ready inside of 4 years to make this more than a twinkle in my eye. Any and all thoughts/comments are welcome, even if its just to tell me I'm nuts and should quit now.

Thanks,
Joey B)
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Drive In, The 4 year plan... 18 Dec 2012 09:57 #39592

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I just finished reading this: www.driveintheatre-ownersassociation.org/FAQs.html#Projection

I am a little confused on startup costs now, lol. According to the above FAQ I should expect $400k start up, but on another page www.airscreen.com/ I came across the following:

"The following are estimates of a "normal" drive-in startup cost.
- digital projector (min. 12K ANSI) starts at US$ 15,000 - 20,000
- AIRSCREEN classic 52ft wide starts at US$ 35,000
- FM transmitter starts at US$ 1,500 - 2,000
Other costs include your projection building / platform, electrical improvements, permits and licenses, etc. Overall a minimum budget of US$ 75,000 should be planned for a single or screen drive-in."

I (in my vast knowledge of drive ins...) figured I would be in the $200k range.

Any current owners have an insight on a 2 screen setup's actual start cost?
Last Edit: 18 Dec 2012 10:06 by Joey.
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Drive In, The 4 year plan... 18 Dec 2012 12:45 #39593

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Every air screen drive-in that has ever opened has been a long-term failure.

The screens themselves are too low to the ground, causing poor sight lines. Any vehicle larger than a crossover will block the view of the people parking behind it. The majority of a drive-in's customers will be families with larger vehicles, so you can't park them all in the back row and leave the front rows half empty. The parking issues resulting from the obscured viewing of the movie will be a nightmare that will plague you every weekend, and your customers won't return regularly if they can't see the full screen.

On a breezy night, the screens are not stable, leading to focus consistency issues. Good luck if you get a really strong wind gust, these screens are like huge sails. You might find your screen a few miles down the road, and if you're lucky nobody will be injured or killed. Taking them down and putting them up night after night also puts a great deal of wear and tear on them, and the screen surface becomes scuffed up rather quickly.

You will very likely have difficulty securing first-run product from studios who will be very reluctant to service a location which uses air screens.

Of course, the air screen manufacturers won't mention any of this in their advertising or to you, since all they really care about is cashing your check. Everything else that takes place after that, you are on your own. Paying your bills and making it a successful business is your problem, not theirs.

If running an air screen drive-in was so easy, everyone would be doing it. You wouldn't be the first person who has tried, and failed. Realistically, it is not a viable long-term business model.

Go ahead and find out for yourself.

Rick
"As long as there are sunsets and stars at night, there will always be drive-in movies."
Last Edit: 18 Dec 2012 12:47 by Transit Drive in.
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Drive In, The 4 year plan... 18 Dec 2012 16:55 #39594

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If you want to show Blu-rays/DVDs, then the projector price is probably about right. If you are wanting to show new movies that are currently in theaters, you are going to need a DCI compliant projector. Due to the lack of light control, you need to have a very bright projector so you'll be looking at the higher cost units (think $50-65,000), you'll need a DCI compliant server (another ($10-$12k), and audio decoder (another $3k).
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Drive In, The 4 year plan... 19 Dec 2012 04:10 #39596

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Got it, airscreen is a big no, lol.

how about this or this for a projector? any links or suggestions would be awesome btw
Last Edit: 19 Dec 2012 04:18 by Joey.
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Drive In, The 4 year plan... 19 Dec 2012 19:48 #39600

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The Film-Tech guys know just about everything there is to know about this stuff. There are other, equally-qualified companies out there, too. Strong sells digital gear, as does American Cinema Equipment (the company I went with).

Transit DI has made some very good points. I would also note that the information you're looking at from UDITOA is extremely dated. There is some good info in there, but the page states that less than 100 screens out of 37,000 have converted.

Keep absorbing info & filter as much as you can. There will be local conditions that none of us will be able to specify for you, so don't take any one's opinion as the last word.
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Drive In, The 4 year plan... 23 Dec 2012 02:54 #39617

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any ideas on a booker or what I should expect that cost to be? I looked on the Directory here and the only one I attmeted to email was no longer a valid email address. I am trying to build an accurate estimate of the start up funds needed less the land purchase. I have found only one possible loacation so far for a 2 screen that is 9.5 acres within my budget. It won't get as much of our local tourist traffic but it will be near an area that is growing with family homes of the 3-4 bedroom range.
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Drive In, The 4 year plan... 23 Dec 2012 03:21 #39618

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Call Frank Rash at 402-223-5119. He charged $150 a month to book the single-screener I was managing back in '06. He will book your place the way YOU want it booked. He has close ties to the distributors. Tell him I sent you.
Bob Allen
The Old Showman
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Drive In, The 4 year plan... 23 Dec 2012 04:46 #39621

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Awesome Bob, thank you. :)
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Drive In, The 4 year plan... 23 Dec 2012 05:44 #39622

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is there a way for me to guesstimate ticket sales for my area? Something like, X% of population tend to visit X number of times a year on a national average? I know that there are a ton of mitigating factors to consider but I'd like to get a worst case senario based off of some kind of data. So far it seems that I'll be looking at $400k - $500k startup and I'd like to have an idea of when I can break even.
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Drive In, The 4 year plan... 03 Jan 2013 02:40 #39639

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Transit & Jack are right on the money. I built a brand new drive-in here in Tennessee (just outside of Nashville) back in 2003. Started off as a single screen... found out that was a really neat HOBBY for $650k. Added my second screen back in 2005 and finally started to make money for another $50k investment. Last spring we remodeled the concessions building and expanded the kitchens for another $12k. On Monday of this week, signed the contracts and sent the 10% deposit on our conversion to digital projection....for another $143k. It ain't cheap...not by a long shot. As long as you don't mind working 7 nights a week till 2:00 a.m. - it can be very rewarding. When can you expect to break even? Kinda depends on what you define as "breaking even"? For us... we showed a profit on paper and taxes by year 4, but the place didn't "cash flow" itself until year 7.

Don't even think about a blow up screen. Gives the same experience to a drive-in as a blow up doll compares to a college girl. Think permanent drive-in, permanent screens (as in two minimum). 12-15 acres minimum - be prepared to battle the zoning weirdos. Water,Sewer, 3 Phase Electrical Power, Natural Gas for utilities. Think fast food restaurant with theme park marketing - that happens to show movies in the parking lot.


The United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association annual convention is coming up in a couple of weeks in the Orlando/Kissimee are of Florida. You might contact them and see what it cost now to become a temporary member and attend the convention. I joined as a temporary member back in 2002 and have been a member ever since.
Barry Floyd
Floyd Entertainment Group
Lebanon, Tennessee

Stardust Drive-In Theatre
Watertown, Tennessee
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Drive In, The 4 year plan... 03 Jan 2013 17:20 #39641

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Thank you Barry. That was about 50K in consulting fees in 3 paragraphs. Real hard knocks school graduate. Pay attention newbies.

Particularly enjoyed the "college girl vs. blow up girl" analogy.
Michael Hurley
Impresario
Last Edit: 03 Jan 2013 17:21 by Mike.
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Drive In, The 4 year plan... 05 Jan 2013 17:37 #39648

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Barry, what is the local population that your screens are drawing from? So far in my research it seems that finding a location is going to kill the business before it even starts, lol. I live in a costal community with the acreage rates to prove it. A lot of the areas I have looked at are in the $1m range. Which is a nonstarter for me. :unsure:

I've been brainstorming on what i can do to make use of the land during the day. At this point I'm considering paintball. The flea market thing might have the draw to be sustainable since we already have a couple of decent size ones in the area already.
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Drive In, The 4 year plan... 06 Jan 2013 02:06 #39650

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Most drive-in's (including ours) are a "regional draw" - meaning we pull in patrons from about 9 surrounding counties. Since we are only 35 miles from downtown Nashville, we're working with a population base of 1.7 million within an hours drive of our place. The town our theatre is located in only has a population of about 1,500+/-... and we RARELY see any of the town locals. We are Nashville's closest drive-in, and when 35mm film goes away, we may very well be the last screens standing.

Drive-ins work best when they are located within a 45 minutes to 1 hour driving distance from a major population base, but still far enough out that land is still cheap, the skies are still dark, and there are no other indoor theatres in the area, and most importantly - no other drive-ins within 50 miles or more. Grab your map and draw you a circle 100 miles across with your drive-in being in the dead center. Position that circle so it overlaps a nearby major population area yet still serves as THE THEATRE for the remaining outlying areas. it's exactly what we did. Within 50 North of Nashville - a drive-in. Within 40 West of Nashville - another drive-in. 50 miles South - another drive-in. For us there was nothing East of Nashville and that's where we started looking.

I can tell you that finding the right spot isn't going to be easy... but like Transit said, if it was easy everyone would be building drive-ins. From the day I looked at my wife and said "Wouldn't it be neat if"...until the day we opened was almost 5 years to the day.

Go out and look at other drive-ins - especially the ones not in your area. See what works, what doesn't, and feel the places out. There is a gorgeous drive-in up in northern Georgia (not far from Chattanooga, TN) that is literally in the middle of BFE nowhere - down a winding 2 lane residential drive, but they do gang buster business. They are the ONLY drive-in anywhere close by.

With 35mm winding down, you can bet there are going to be alot of existing drive-ins for sale - some at rock bottom prices. I know of two here in TN that are for sale for that very reason, and one for sale in Alabama.

We don't use our place during the daytime hours. I refuse to do flea markets (it's the stigma thing), but I've never thought about paintball.

Keep looking.....
Barry Floyd
Floyd Entertainment Group
Lebanon, Tennessee

Stardust Drive-In Theatre
Watertown, Tennessee
Last Edit: 06 Jan 2013 02:06 by Barry Floyd.
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