It was a sad sight to see throughout the '80s and '90s: That local drive-in theater closed, left abandoned, full of weeds and graffiti, falling apart, leased to flea markets and finally torn down to give way to yet another mini-mall. In their heyday, drive-ins were 4,000 locations strong in the United States alone. By the new millennium, there were less than 500. But in the past few years, nostalgia and just pure-love for the experience has resulted in guerrilla drive-ins as well as new, legitimately run outdoor cinemas. In the past year, 20 drive-ins have opened for business. The total screens in the U.S. is now 420.
According to the president of the United Drive-In Theater Owners Association (UDITOA), drive-ins are coming back because they're a great deal in that they offer two movies for the price of one (which is now per person instead of per automobile) and they can save on concessions because they don't outlaw outside food.
I really miss my local drive-in. My first movie memory is of seeing The Fox and the Hound there, and it closed soon after, never allowing me the teen-aged drive-in experiences that have been the imprinted association thanks to Grease, etc. I would love to see more companies bring the whole format back, although I can't imagine that drive-ins are all that lucrative a business anymore. Although, it figures if drive-ins made a comeback now, since I just sold my car.
On a related note, I also love the idea of non-auto-based outdoor screenings -- many parks show them -- and roadshows like the Netflix/Alamo Drafthouse thing going on right now.