Drive-ins mount modest comeback

Texas, Alabama lead nation in builds

In 1958, there were more than 4,000 drive-in theaters in the U.S. Today, only 368 remain, according to figures complied by the United Drive-in Theater Owners Assn. Some of the facilities are the outdoor versions of multiplexes, so the total number of drive-in screens is 661.

Pennsylvania has the most sites, with 33 drive-ins and 54 screens. Four states (Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii and Louisiana) and Washington, D.C., have none.

Unlike other 1950s staples such as bobby socks and Brylcreem, drive-in theaters have staged a modest comeback over the past couple of decades. According to the theater owners’ data, 42 drive-ins have been built since 1990, and only four of them have since closed. Over the same period, 63 drive-ins were re-opened, and just 11 of them have since been shuttered. Alabama had the most new builds at nine (one since closed), while Texas counted the most new builds plus re-openings at 15, with three now closed.

Nobody publishes figures on drive-in grosses, but it’s possible to guess at the number by extrapolating from total domestic box office grosses, which measured as $10.19 billion in 2011. Assuming every U.S. screen delivered the same results, drive-ins would have grossed a little shy of $170 million last year. Of course, that probably overstates the drive-in business. Unlike their hard-top brethren, drive-in owners can’t add earlier showings to capitalize on boffo hits. But a few are investing in digital projection, and one Texas drive-in now offers 3D screenings.

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 0

Leave a Reply

No Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More Film News from Variety