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TOPIC: Has anyone done this before?

Has anyone done this before? 16 Jul 2003 07:26 #28327

  • gmonny
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Hello. I'm new to your website, and after the past few days of reading, reading, reading, I've finally opted to become a member. At the risk of being told to continue reading, I have to tell you that I've read quite alot on starting up a new theatre, but haven't come upon anything that pertains to my predicament. I have been contemplating on starting a business, and one of my dreams was to buy out a dying drive-in and take over. However, after reading about all the complexities of drive-ins, I opted to check out indoor theaters. After all this reading, I've determined that there are just as many complexities with running an indoor vs. drive-in theater. There just seems to be more cons than pros, though, in running a drive-in. The one thing that I did realize is that some of the issues of running either a drive-in or an indoor theater could be resolved by changing one's perception and applying some of the concepts of the outdoor venue to the indoor venue, and vice versa. My question is, other than the museum piece located in MO, has anyone ever contemplated an indoor drive-in?

Looking forward to reading any response to this email!!

G.
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Re: Has anyone done this before? 16 Jul 2003 08:49 #28328

  • Barry Floyd
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Right out of college, I worked my internship at a local Architectural firm here in Nashville. One of our more interesting projects was converting a recently closed military air base into a shopping and entertainment venue.

We took a huge abandoned aircraft hangar and turned it into a drive-in theatre. Since there were no interior support columns, it was the perfect "open space". We did the plans, but I don't think the project ever got built though. We did alot of things back then that never got built.

Now almost 15 years later, I've built my own real drive-in theatre. We're not open yet, but we are about 4-5 weeks away from THE night.

Indoor or outdoor, it does cost ALOT. Ours ended up costing 28% more than we estimated.

Good luck!

Barry Floyd
Floyd Entertainment Group
Lebanon, Tennessee

Stardust Drive-In Theatre
Watertown, Tennessee
Barry Floyd
Floyd Entertainment Group
Lebanon, Tennessee

Stardust Drive-In Theatre
Watertown, Tennessee
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Re: Has anyone done this before? 16 Jul 2003 11:16 #28329

  • jimor
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What and Where is the "museum piece located in MO"?
Jim R. (new E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) member: www.HistoricTheatres.org
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Re: Has anyone done this before? 16 Jul 2003 12:02 #28330

  • John Pytlak
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Excuse me, but may I ask why you would even WANT to build a drive-in with a roof overhead?
Having spent a wonderful three years of my life as a drive-in projectionist, the FUN was being out under the stars. Even the fog, rain, and occasional snow (we were open from early April until late October in Angola NY) made life interesting.


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Re: Has anyone done this before? 16 Jul 2003 16:43 #28331

  • gmonny
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First I'd like to thank all who have replied thus far. So let me address everyone's reply. First, the hangar thing...what were the specs for that particular project? How many cars where was the screen? Did you think it was a unique idea?

Second, the 'indoor drive-in' is called Ronnie's in St. Louis, MO. It is only the back halves of cars, but the cars are real. I think there are about 20 cars lined up inside some kind of museum type venue. I've never been, but it came across in my search. Other than Walt Disney's scifi theater (another that came across in my search), Ronnie's in St. Louis is the only indoor drive-in to come up online. It's not to say that the concept isn't being used in a smaller forum, but it is not publicly known.

And lastly, the reason I would want to put up an indoor drive-in is because all our drive-ins in the Chicagoland area have been closed down. There are numerous reasons for this happening, like location, clientele, security, lack of maintenance, etc. What is sad is that some of my fondest childhood memories are at a drive-in. And what's even sadder is that because there is a huge unlikeliness that these drive-ins will open again, my children will not have the opportunity to experience a drive-in. For me it's more of a nostagic thing. And with nostalgia being a big thing in America, if it was possible to scale down the size, but provide all the delights of a drive-in, right down to the swingset located in front of the screen, and control most of the negative components of a drive-in, like weather, clientele, security, etc., then it may be possible to achieve an experience that is as close to a real drive-in as possible. As an added bonus, some of the positive aspects of running an indoor theatre can be applied which results in more control of what goes on at a drive-in.

So, answer to your question...why not?
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Re: Has anyone done this before? 16 Jul 2003 17:51 #28332

Then you could set your sprinkler systems off and have a rain out when you did not want to work.
I can see nothing but major liabillity issues in a place like this. Carbon monoxide to think about etc. The reason so many drive inns have disappeared is because of the value of the land they were sitting on was worth more if they sold it.

(I-45 Drive in in Houston TX, the last such to be built in that area, was a beautiful 6 screen drive in, It is now a Home Depot,a Walmart, a Sams Club, Best Buy, Hobby Lobby , Red Lobster etc. the owners made close to 20 times the amount they spent on the land and having the theatre constructed in the 1980's) What would you have done if you were offered that?

I can't see many wishing to go to the "indoor drive in" It is my opinion that it would be a short lived fad.


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Re: Has anyone done this before? 16 Jul 2003 18:40 #28333

  • outaframe
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OK, what you really have in mind is a "simulated drive-in" with novelty seating in the rear halves of partial old car bodies, inside a building which simulates the feeling of being outside in a drive-in... Something along the line of the restaurant/night club in "Pulp Fiction."... Sure, it can be done, but the seating in 50s "classic" cars is probably going to put it out of reach because of the scarcity and cost of the real thing, but I know that something along that line is already being made in fiberglass, for kid's rooms, home bars and rec rooms... Even a factory building could be used, and there are plenty vacant in the Chicago area... And you wouldn't need to necessarilly be concerned with accoustics, and lots of other such things if you used drive-in style speakers (IF you can find 'em)... Actually, what you have in mind is doable, for sure, and MIGHT even be a hit!... There's indoor baseball, football and golf, so why not an indoor (simulated) drive-in... "Tony & Tina's Wedding" has been playing as "dinner theater," for eons, and is still going strong... You're right about the nostalgia kick, and Chicago is the IDEAL spot to put it!... Rotsa Ruck!
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Re: Has anyone done this before? 16 Jul 2003 19:46 #28334

  • outaframe
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PS <> You already know what a restaurant town Chicago is: why not make it a dinner-style theater deal, and play vintage drive-in films?... "American Graffiti," "Creature from the Black Lagoon," "Rocky Horror Picture Show" all seem to still have an audience, and the Elvis pictures are a possibility... Don't know if "Beach Blanket Bingo," Etc., "real" 50s drive-in fare would still draw, but a good steak, maybe a beer or glass of wine, and a trip down memory lane will most likely sell to baby boomers, and some of the yuppie crowd... Lots of details to nail down (like film cost, and availability) and a million other things, but you have the kernels of a saleable idea with what you have in mind...

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Re: Has anyone done this before? 17 Jul 2003 07:56 #28335

  • Linda
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The "Ronnie Drive in" is not an indoor drive in theater. It is an old stye diner attached to a 20-plex. They do have the halves of old cars as their seating. They have a big screen TV showing previews and sports. It's owned and operated by Wehrenberg Theaters and named after the "Ronnie's Drivein" which is now closed and torn down. There is a drive in which has operated continuously for over 50 years either in Belleville or Collinsville,Il can't remember for sure which and at the moment I can't remember what it's called. I think it's the Skyline, but am not sure.
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Re: Has anyone done this before? 17 Jul 2003 08:12 #28336

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It's called the Skyview Drive In and is located in Belleville, Illinois. http://www.drive-ins.com/theater/ilskyv.
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Re: Has anyone done this before? 17 Jul 2003 09:07 #28337

  • jimor
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Thanks for identifying that drive-in in MO. I don't mean to rain on your parade, and I think the idea is novel and possibly workable if you can indeed get enough product to fill the bill.

A problem I thought of with those 'half cars' is that, unlike the original cars outdoors which had a degree of privacy, these will not what with the front half gone, and you KNOW what the teens of years past DID in those seats! Do you really want kiddies to walk past and see them going at IT? I guess you could pass out blankets to those 'in the mood' but would they use them, and could you afford to give them out within the ticket price? True, you could have such blankets imprinted with "We did 'it' at [name of your place] and never saw the films!" But is this the cachet that you want?

On the other hand, if you can solve the above problem in some way, then I can just see your enterprise now: acres of plastic roof panels with little white lights scattered under the panels for those nights when the stars just refuse to 'come out,' a gravel 'floor' with the hills and speaker stands, the flood lights atop the screen as one of the old ads to go to the Concession Stand (of concrete block with large windows and a similar projection building somewhere behind that) and the playground up in front. Just think, movies out 'under the stars', as it were, immobilized full old cars (maybe that will provide enough 'privacy') and no mosquitos!! Since the last one just closed a year ago here in the Milwaukee area, I now must go 50 miles to the nearest one upstate. I know how you feel. Best Wishes, Jim Rankin
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Re: Has anyone done this before? 17 Jul 2003 12:39 #28338

  • gmonny
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Whoohoo!! You guys are awesome, and I love this website. I can't tell you how excited I am to get feedback from those who know. OK, so let me tackle some of your questions.

GTE...never said it would be an actual "drive-in". An external factor that can be addressed and controlled in designing an indoor drive-in is the exhaust issue. One of those childhood drive-in memories which weren't so positive but quite memorable was the smell of exhaust as we made our way to the exit after a movie. To resolve this issue, outaframe hit it right on the money...simulate a drive-in. Heck, they can similate an indoor jungle, lighting, weather effects and all, than why not a drive-in? (I'm assuming that you all know of the Rainforest Cafe...a restaurant franchise with the jungle theme.)

As for other liability issues, please dish them out. I do have a list of those and am tacking them one at a time, but other issues that I may not have yet identified would help with my research. Who better to identify other potential issues than industry experts?

Linda...I know that Ronnie's is not a 'true' drive-in. The only reason I brought it up is because when I did a search online for the words 'indoor drive-in', this was the only venue that came up which was close to what I was thinking about. I just wanted to see if there were any such thing open anywhere in the world. Ronnie's was the only venue that came up in that search, but it isn't what I was hoping to find, and I think that's a good thing.

As for the Skyline, as much as I LOVE drive-in movies, I will travel a great distance, but not 288 miles worth. Belleville is a good 4 hours away. The closest drive-in is the one in Wheeling (and I'm not sure that's even open anymore) and it's a little over an hour from where I live, 1 hour from downtown Chicago. Still a distance, and therefore, even though competition would be the local megaplexes (four under 20 miles and therefore, in my neck of the woods), there isn't anything unique about these megaplexes.

Jim, my idea is not to use 'half' of a car, and not just 50's cars. I would take any junker available, clean it up, minimize the potential risk, make sure the seating is comfortable, etc. As for acoustics, I was thinking that this 'drive-in' is actually indoors, and thus can be designed as an indoor theater. There used to be this one theatre that I loved to go to...no matter what time of the day it was, before the show started, the ceiling was covered in stars. It's been torn down since, but I'm thinking that if has been done before, it can be done again. HOWEVER...let's extend this lighting thing. Since drive-ins were primarily popular only in the evening, this indoor concept would open the same time as all the other theaters in the area. Imagine being able to go to a drive-in in the middle of the day?

That roofing idea was awesome...in fact I'm ashamed that I did not think of that because my deck roof is made out of polycarb sheeting to keep the outdoors in without allowing the outdoors to come in. What a concept right? But I like the lighting control better because it will allow more showtime use.

All in all, keep the comments coming, even the Doubting Thomas ones. Understand that it does suck that a drive-in concept has to be contained indoors. I miss going to the drive-in, and it's good to know there are others out there like me. That tells me there just may be a need for something like this.

Thanks again, all!!

G.
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Re: Has anyone done this before? 17 Jul 2003 13:37 #28339

  • outaframe
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HELLO JIM <> OK, so you remember the same "Passion Pits" that I do: for all we knew the picture could have been upside down, we weren't there for the movie, at least until after we took care of "business."... Ones I remember used to have a guy on patrol, whose job it was to keep the couples uncoupled and "nice" but it was hopeless 'cause he was so outnumbered, and we were so determined... Unless you keep an eye on your back row and out-of-the-way seats, the same thing will be going on in your indoor... Those teenie-boppers are just as horny and ingenious as ever: give 'em two seats (sometimes only one) some semi-darkness, and they'll find a way... My personal opinion of drive-ins is that, discounting the nostalgia, they always were a lousy place to see a movie... Between the bugs on your windshield, and the bugs flying around, the rain, ambient light, fog (sometimes), either too hot or too cold, noisy foot traffic going to the concession stand/rest room, and the "tin can" sound coming from those little hang-on speakers, it wasn't really much of a movie experience... But like I said, we weren't there for the movie... If I really wanted to see a movie, I went to a good indoor, even as a teen... Oh yeah one more thing, put the booth above the concessions stand, and you'll reduce or eliminate picture keystoning, and have lots better focus...
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Re: Has anyone done this before? 17 Jul 2003 15:27 #28340

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HELLO "GEE" <> Want "stars:" a BUNCH of small White LEDs will do the job AND serve as your "house lights," and you can even dim 'em... They'll be a PAIN to install, but if you keep the milliamps just under specs, they'll last nearly forever!... Yes, the simulated drive-in could have all the good stuff of the real thing, but with less of the problems... However, I don't know about putting complete car bodies in as seating... Besides the "Passion Pit" stuff, that much privacy could lead to much worse problems, and perhaps to liability issues with your insurance co... Think I'd stick to the rear half of a top-down convertable, style of seating... Just my 2 cents worth!...
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Re: Has anyone done this before? 20 Jul 2003 09:30 #28341

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OUTAFRAME is right: LEDs are the way to go, since replacing light bulbs on a ceiling high enough to be realistic, is a PAIN! (ask any guy who has had to replace the lights in the ceilings of the old movie palaces!) Thank goodness that LED technology has finally got to inventing not only the White color LED, but also a 120-volt string that requires no transformer and is self-regulating = you just plug them in end-to-end. For sales of these go to: www.foreverbrghit.com and for explanations as to how they work and a test evealuation, go to: www.LEDmuseum.org .

It just occurred to me that there may be a different legal take on the issue of closed cars indoors if the occupants happen to take or sell illicit drugs in there. Outdoors it might be assumed that it is their own car and therefore their responsibility, but indoors in 'your' car, whose responsibility is it? In many jurisdictions the DEA can legally seize someone's house if any drugs are found there, much less sold there. So can they also take your theatre?? A dismal thoght, I know, but one must contemplate it. There was a TV newsmagazine critical of the DEA program and the new law permitting it, since they said that the DEA was profiting from such seizures, often under scant evidence -- some of which the program implied was planted. They said that the DEA had seized and sold MILLIONS of dollars of such private property (including a grandparents' homestead where their underage grandwson was experimenting with drugs without their knowledge) and thus enriching their budget to the extent of being able to buy expensive computers and night vision goggles, for example; things which their budgets could not otherwise afford. They just might see your indoor-outdoor as a nice plum to sell -- land and all. Better find a lawyer you can trust (is there such??) and ask him for documented case law examples. Best Wishes!! Jim

[This message has been edited by jimor (edited July 20, 2003).]
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