Just imagine a movie-going experience where you can also toss a ball, walk your dog, use your cell phone and enjoy some stargazing; where you can get clean seats, ample arm rests, good food and drinks, and best of all, real butter on your popcorn.
Going to the drive-in has long been a favorite American pastime. Now those drive-ins that are surviving—and thriving—have updated their businesses for new audiences that want access to high-quality releases, in addition to affordable, family- and date-friendly fun.
The Digital Divide
Technology can make or break today’s drive-ins, and savvy owners are installing bigger and better screens, new digital projectors that offer HD-quality pictures and state-of-the-art sound systems that can broadcast through your car radio.
Many drive-ins, which tend to be mom-and-pop run, have developed huge followings on social media, keeping customers engaged year-round, even if the theaters are closed for the season or not. Patrons can often order tickets online and get text alerts about local weather reports and movie schedules.
To draw bigger crowds, some owners now offer multiple screens, running double or triple features to keep patrons happy (and buying snacks) from dusk until dawn.
Coyote Drive-In in Fort Worth, which has four screens, can accommodate as many as 1,250 cars. Business is so good that the company recently opened a second theater just outside Birmingham, with a third location scheduled to open in Lewisville, Texas, in late October.
Nostalgia is on the marquee at many drive-in theaters, with retro attractions like 1950s-style diners, arcades and classic car shows that conjure up memories of a simpler time.
At Bengies Drive-In Theatre in Baltimore, you can watch classic cartoons and vintage trailers on old 35mm film, and enjoy 20-minute intermissions when everyone heads to the concession stand.
A variety of high-quality options—like wine and healthier food choices—keep customers coming back. “People arrive one to two hours before the movie starts—to eat, play games like horseshoes and enjoy live music,” says Coyote’s president Glenn Solomon. “We have mini-golf and playgrounds. Here, everyone can have a great experience.”
Before you head to your nearest theater, make sure your car is properly protected. Get a fast and free auto insurance quote and see how much you could save.
By Sarah Hutter