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TOPIC: Drive-In Amps vs Radio Broadcast

Drive-In Amps vs Radio Broadcast 24 Aug 2006 10:18 #22432

  • dsschoenborn
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Have all drive-in's converted to broadcasting over radios or do some still use the tube amps.

I have some tube amps from a drive-in ans was trying to decide if someone would still use them or if they are trash.
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Re: Drive-In Amps vs Radio Broadcast 24 Aug 2006 11:38 #22433

  • rodeojack
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There are still a few out there that use speakers exclusively, though not many. If their field wiring hasn't deteriorated, many drive-ins have maintained their systems, AND added FM. The drive-in I grew up working for is like that. www.rodeodrivein.com/wheelin

Places like mine, with old field wiring, have mostly converted to FM.

As far as I know, pretty much all new builds are exclusively FM.

If you post your amplifier make & model... or maybe a picture, there's probably a drive-in out there that could use it.
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Re: Drive-In Amps vs Radio Broadcast 24 Aug 2006 13:08 #22434

  • dsschoenborn
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Thanks for the info Jack. I liked both drive-in's websites.

[This message has been edited by dsschoenborn (edited August 24, 2006).]
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Re: Drive-In Amps vs Radio Broadcast 24 Aug 2006 23:49 #22435

  • Ken Layton
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Yes there are indeed some drive-ins still using speakers and they use tube amplifiers to drive them. There are some that use both radio sound and still have speakers to satisfy all customers.

Installing new capacitors in the amplifier will keep it running another 50 years!

Please do post a make and model of the amplifier. That would help in matching it to some theater's existing sound system.
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Re: Drive-In Amps vs Radio Broadcast 25 Aug 2006 12:20 #22436

  • John Pytlak
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In addition to replacing the capacitors, you may need to replace wiring with brittle insulation. I had a few minor fires with an RCA sound system that used the old 807 tubes --- the insulation on the wires that went to the plate terminal on top of each tube became brittle from the tube's heat and arced. A CO2 extinguisher was fortunately part of our "toolkit" in the booth, limiting the damage to the old amplifiers.

There's considerable market for old theatre sound systems that use tubes from audio collectors and purists who long for the "tube sound".

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John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
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Eastman Kodak Company
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Telephone: +1 585-477-5325 Fax: +1 585-722-7243
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Re: Drive-In Amps vs Radio Broadcast 11 Sep 2006 20:44 #22437

  • jukingeo
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You could probably grab some of the old Altec Theatre amplifiers. They were built like tanks and when rebuilt can last a very long time. They fetch a pretty price on Ebay now, but well worth snatching up a couple. Those RCA's with the 807 or 805 tubes you will have trouble finding replacement tubes for. But the Altecs use standard 6L6 or EL 34 tubes that can be had at any guitar amplifier store.

RODEOJACK--Cool little place you got there. I really never considered a drive in theatre until recently. For the most part I thought they were dead, but apparently they are making a comeback in the North East and Texas. I find it surprising that most people, particularly families find Drive-In's more appealing. But after reading some recent articles, I can understand why. So naturally this caught my attention. It does sound interesting, but I seriously doubt seeing myself getting into that line of theatre business. For one, Drive-Ins are mostly seasonal (unless you live in a southern climate...even then in the summer it can get too hot out at night), but the loan payments are not. But I do see some advantages though. For one maintenance is probably lower and you don't have a massive building to heat or AC. How is attendance when it rains? Do you still get a good turn out?

JG
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Re: Drive-In Amps vs Radio Broadcast 11 Sep 2006 23:12 #22438

  • rodeojack
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Thanks for the comments.

Actually, you can make a fairly decent living at this, provided you can adjust to the seasonal nature that you mentioned. We've been here since '86, have raised 4 daughters, and are putting 3 of them through college right now. Yes... I'm looking forward to getting past THAT part of the adventure!


Think of it like you would if you were running a farm. The payday is at harvest time, and the rest of your year is getting ready for it. In the meantime, those payments keep going out, the bills keep coming in and the family, oddly, seems to want food on the table every day!

We live on the property, and if the place is open, we're here. That makes for 7-day weeks during the Summer, but a nice vacation during the Winter. We think of it like getting our weekends off... consecutively.

It's fairly common misconception that maintenance and operational costs have to be lower. It's all outdoors after all, so it MUST be cheaper to run, right? Not necessarily.

Most drive-ins book at least 2 films on a screen, hopefully at lower percentages than an indoor. However, with the way the business is going these days, we're seeing more of the boxoffice going to the studios, and ticket and concession prices have been inching up as a result. We're still somewhat less expensive than a night at the indoor... I think mainly because most of us don't have corporate infrastructures to support. Still, we're paying for two features for the ticket price. Not many indoor houses do that anymore.

Maintenance is not necessarily lower, just transferred to other parts of the property.

You have to pick up your auditoriums between shows... I have to pick my fields up at the end of the night. You have seats and carpets to maintain... a drive-in has one huge field to keep up, possibly more. This includes landscaping, poles, fences, painting, building maintenance (yes, the snack bar has to be mopped) and kitchen equipment to clean and maintain. Drive-ins have the same restroom challenges any theatre would have... maybe more. The lines at intermission time can get pretty long.

Projection maintenance and updates should be typical of any theatre, though we have our percentage of drive-ins that (unfortunately) are running stuff that was made when Edison was still alive.

We don't have the multichannel auditorium sound systems, but we do have radio transmitters & supporting equipment. A few drive-ins still have operating field systems with traditional window speakers. Being outside, those systems typically take more maintenance than an auditorium would. You don't often have to spray the ants and hornets out of your subwoofers!


We don't have vinyl screens, but we do have huge outdoor surfaces which need to be maintained against the weather. I get 5 to 7 good years out of a paint job. Then, I rent a hydraulic lift, get out the pressure washer, paint sprayer and rollers. I think drive-ins probably spend more on screen maintenance than an average indoor would, given the square footage... at least, they probably should.

The one area where we probably do save money is in that we don't have nearly the heating and air conditioning costs that an indoor house would have. We also probably save some on overall payroll and electrical costs, since our business day is generally shorter than a typical grind house.

Oh... unless you have a really big screen, I probably spend more for xenon lamps and the electricity to feed and cool them than you'd have to!

Regarding rain: Yes, a healthy downpour will put the dampers on what otherwise might have been a good night. It's just part of the business. Overall, it averages out. Some seasons are pretty rainy in this part of the country. Others, like this one, are so dry you don't see any rain for nearly 6 months.


(edit) BTW... I maintain some drive-in amplifiers and a couple of broadcast transmitters that (still) use tubes. Those 807s are still fairly easy to find... even some of the JAN types, which you just about can't kill. I have a couple that have been in seasonal service for nearly 30 years, and still test good.

[This message has been edited by rodeojack (edited September 12, 2006).]
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Re: Drive-In Amps vs Radio Broadcast 18 Sep 2006 13:13 #22439

  • jukingeo
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Hello RODEOJACK

Nice insite on the operation of a Drive-In. Well it does look like you have your fair share of maintenance as well. It is still 'not my bag', but interesting nonetheless. Before I would do a drive in, I think I would rather do an amphitheatre if I was looking to do something 'under the stars'. There is a place by me that is like that. They mostly do live shows, but they do run second run movies and classics from time to time. The downside of an amphitheatre is that now we are back up to a massive sound system and the place must be situated no where near a residential area. Whereas mostly a drive-in is quiet...unless you get some goony goo goo that decides to blast his 'boom mobile'. Speaking of which...do you get problems with those blaring loud music during the movie? With todays 'volitile' car stereos I can forsee that as being a problem. Also with me another issue would be painting those screens. I am not fond of heights and those Drive-In screens can get pretty high. Oh! on the tubes, yeah you are right, the 807 is still fairly common...it is the 805 that is a bit of a tough find. I think the 811 is also another popular tube for a high powered amp. If I had it my way, I would operate soley on vacuum tubes amps. It is just that the higher powered ones are expensive to maintain and buy.

JG
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Re: Drive-In Amps vs Radio Broadcast 18 Sep 2006 16:16 #22440

  • rodeojack
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Here are a couple of links where I found the other tubes you were interested in.
http://www.thetubecenter.com/tubelist11.html
http://thetubestore.com/

I also get some tubes from Richardson Electronics.
http://broadcast.rell.com/tubes.asp


I was in New York recently, and toured a drive-in that had a good solid-state install in it. The tech that designed it does a lot of service work around there. Maybe the theatre could get you in touch with the tech, if you have any interest in a reliable solid-state alternative:
http://www.charcoalcorral.com/


On the issue of noise: It really isn't a huge problem... just something the field employees watch for. Because we have 3 screens, watching the ambient volume is just part of the job.

The biggest challenge is keeping the subwoofers to a reasonable level... those things will carry for miles if you don't watch 'em!

Jack

[This message has been edited by rodeojack (edited September 18, 2006).]
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