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TOPIC: The Small-Town Drive-In

The Small-Town Drive-In 04 May 2002 07:47 #27765

  • D. Bird
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With the good weather here, the outdoor venues are opening up again, many are in smaller places where land hasn't been gobbled up. I touched on this in the "Population-Ticket Sales" thread, but yesterday, I got a call from a realtor who I'd talked to years ago about property for a drive-in. As I suspected, the only affordable and suitable land is not 5 miles from the city, but rather, on the edge of a small town within 12 miles of a number of cities and towns. There are about 7,500 locally, say 25,000 within 15-20 minutes, and 100,000 no more than a half hour. Only about 12 screens and no drive-ins, all in the cities. People are very accustomed to driving to the city to see movies, there have been none in town for 30 years. But lots of families here, and it's pretty central to the region, though not on the main road, it is near the hockey arena/fairgrounds, a familiar destination for most.

Anyway, that's not really the point. I want to talk about the land. It's a very clear, and "high and dry" hayfield right now. No clearing at all to be done. Theoretically, we could show movies by the end of the school year. With the wet weather gone, it's "cut and go". But, I'd be very hesitant to open without proper ramping. I've seen a theatre open with brand new soil ramps middle of summer (with gravel drives), but can you imagine the mess first night it rains, unsettled "mud-ramps". Which is worse? I'd have ramps for year 2, but do you risk customer experience year 1? I sort of lean "no", but I have seen a drive-in where they levelled the ramps and took out the poles, looked lovely. I wonder if today's bigger windshields allow for viewing without. I would use poles for spacing. What do you all think?
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Re: The Small-Town Drive-In 04 May 2002 13:46 #27766

  • Ken Layton
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You need ramps because todays customers come to the theater in taller and bigger vehicles. Have the ramps made of "crushed black rock" and get it rolled and tamped well. If you need a screen, the Samish Twin drive-in here in Washington state (Bellingham, near the Canadian border with Vancouver) has 2 screens to get rid of. One is all wood and the other is all metal.
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