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TOPIC: Interested in opening a drive in movie theater

Interested in opening a drive in movie theater 27 Jun 2012 05:54 #38746

32We are interested in opening a drive in movie theater where we live and have no clue of how much it would cost or where to look for prices. We know that the projector is going to cost us the most but have no clue of what kind or the cost (again).

Any insight would be helpful.
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Re: Interested in opening a drive in movie theater 27 Jun 2012 19:34 #38756

  • rodeojack
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Congratulations! Glad to see you taking a look at this.

Unfortunately, there is no fixed answer for this. Much of a drive-in project can be a moving target, although one family recently built a single-screen theatre for about $450,000, then twinned it, and then expanded the snack bar.

I've seen 200 - 250 car theatres built on 5 acres or so. My triplex is on 13 & has capacities of 500, 250, 250.

For screens, the easy answer is to look up Selby Screens (you can google this). It is possible to build locally, and screens are built out of everything from phone-pole structures to stacked cargo containers. A commercial screen, running around 85 feet wide will run you somewhat over $100k, last time I checked.

Beyond that, it's grading, septic, buildings, ticket booths, electric & communications infrastructure... relatively common stuff.

If you get past the basics of whether you can site a theatre in the first place, I'd look up a couple of equipment supply houses. They can help you with selection and booth design. Maybe more important... VISIT as many drive-ins outside of the area you're planning to build on as possible. Every one of them has its own story, and you can learn a lot by just doing this.

Good luck!
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Re: Interested in opening a drive in movie theater 28 Jun 2012 04:33 #38761

  • Ken Layton
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Check zoning first of all. If the zoning isn't right, you will encounter difficulty.

Expensive items to consider:

Land
Buildings
Grading/paving the ramps
Screen Tower(s)
Projection/sound equipment
Insurance
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Re: Interested in opening a drive in movie theater 28 Jun 2012 17:55 #38770

  • Barry Floyd
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Built mine new back in 2003. Started off with one screen on 15 acres. Spent about $500k the first time around. Added a second screen in 2005 for a cost of $35k (equipment, grading & screen), then we expanded our concessions too earlier this spring for around $12k.

Rodeojack is right - and so is Ken. We tried several places before we could get the zoning passed to put in a drive-in. Lots of folks tell you they can't wait for you to build a drive-in, but they're not the ones who show up at the zoning meetings. The ones that show up at the zoning meetings are the ones who scream you're going to show porn to their innocent little children.

Like Ken said.... Zoning first, then land, utilities (water/sewer/3 phase electrical power / natural gas), buildings, ramps, screens, projection equipment,etc.

Don't even think about opening a drive-in if you can't have two or more screens. A newly constructed single screen drive-in is a really nice HOBBY, but it doesn't generate enough income to pay it's own bills. Although we turned a profit after 4 years, it took 7 years before the place would cash flow.

If you're just now looking at this, then sadly 35mm film will probably be gone before you get it open. Plan on $70k per screen for projection expenses. Screens.... several years ago they were $1,000 a foot (Selby), I don't know what they are now. My first screen was a Selby, my second screen is a pole-built structure erected by a pole barn builder from a farming community 20 miles up the road. Both screens work just fine.

You can count on it taking twice as long as you thought it would to build, it will cost twice as much, and won't make the money you thought it would right out of the gate. I'm almost 10 years in, and we're finally making good money... however I KEPT MY DAY JOB.

Good Luck....
Barry Floyd
Floyd Entertainment Group
Lebanon, Tennessee

Stardust Drive-In Theatre
Watertown, Tennessee
Last Edit: 27 Jul 2012 15:04 by Barry Floyd.
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