About Data and Statistics

The is a repository of information from many sources. Read to learn more about the data and statistics you see on

Where our data comes from

The database is culmination of data from a number of different sources including our own research, Theatre Catalogs, International Motion Picture Almanacs, and contributions from website visitors.

  • Our research
    Jennifer and Kipp have been researching drive-ins since 1995. Their research includes field data collected throughout the US obtained through interviews with drive-in locals and owners (past and present), and onsite visits to locations such as drive-in sites and historical societies. They also draw from media archives and map sources like satellite imagery and topographical maps.
  • Theatre Catalogs
    Theatre Catalogs were published through the 1960s by a company called Jay Emanuel Publications of Philadelphia. They were an annual publication that began in 1941, created for theatre owners and operators. These 'annuals' contain information about both indoor and outdoor theatres, including sections on construction and innovations of that time. Some issues even included a directory of drive-ins operating at that time. The hardcopy books are now hard to find.
  • International Motion Picture Almanacs
    International Motion Picture Almanacs have been published by Quigley Publishing for over 90 years. They serve as desk references for film industry professionals and are primarily intended for producers, distributors, and exhibitors.
  • Website visitors
    People from around the globe visit and contribute information to (170,000 visits/month in summer). They provide dates, photographs, location data, and personal anecdotes. See our list of contributors here (link to

Why our data differs from other sources

One of the most sought after statistics is how many drive-ins are there. How many open? How many ever existed? How many existed in 1958? Although there are several opinions, no one has an exact answer to these questions because no one has all-inclusive data. A few things are agreed on by experts: there were as many as 5000 drive-ins at their peak in 1958.

Drive-in 'counts' vary for many reasons:

  • Terms and their definitions vary from source to source. For example, some sources data can be either owner-centric (1 drive-in owner/operator = 1 drive-in) and not theater centric (1 drive-in owner/operator can have multiple drive-ins). Another example of this kind of ambiguity is a drive-in like the Ford-Wyoming 1-5 (link to and the Ford-Wyoming 6-7-8-9 (link to This drive-in is split into two locations (one across the street from the other). Each side has its own name but it is operated by one company.
  • Drive-ins over the years go through many changes. Many go through name changes, changes of ownership, and even location changes. In the 1930s and 40s most drive-ins were simply named "Drive-In." These variations often cause a drive-in to be counted irregularly.
  • Even the time of year when you take a tally can make a difference in the overall count. This is primarily due to seasonal openings/closings. Not all drive-ins operate using the same season (although May through September is common).
  • Sources also vary by methodology. Some provide a snapshot in time (last year there were X drive-ins in the US). Others use a live count ("we believe there are X drive-ins operating in the US"). While other sources are somewhere in between a snapshot in time and a live count. Not all sources will specify. provides both (snapshots and live counts) and they are identified as such. Both serve different purposes.
  • Another reason for variation is the presence of approximation or interpolation of the data. This is especially relevant when looking at historical counts such as how many drive-ins were open in 1958. Sometimes an exact opening date is known, but not always. For some drive-ins we may only know a date range… it opened after 1962 but before 1965.
  • International drive-in data is less complete than data for the Unites States. Additionally there are some gray areas. For example, does not include US territories like Puerto Rico in its total for the Unites States.

The goal of is to provide the most all-inclusive archive of this kind of data. Updates and improvements have been made since data collection started in 1995 and the accuracy of the data improves over time.

Different kinds of data

There different kinds of data… namely live drive-in counts and historical snapshots, usually year by year. If you compare the two, they will often vary. This snapshot could have been taken at the beginning of the season, while the one from a previous year has the benefit of hindsight at the end of the year. A live count for example may not reflect a late-opening drive-in or one that closed unexpectedly but has not been reported yet. The granularity of a drive-in count may vary as well. Opening dates versus date ranges is a common example of this.

Some terminology we use

To better understand the data we provide, it is important to be know some of our official terms and definitions. Not everyone defines these terms the same way. Here are the most important ones:

  • Drive-In: a permanent location, but not necessary a permanent structure. This would include a drive-in that operates year round as a county fair for example, but uses an inflatable screen. It would not include a so-called guerrilla drive-in that does movie screens at different locations around town.
  • Operating Status: (Snapshots) A drive-in's operating status is open if it is open for regular business at some point during the season. A drive-in's operating status is closed if it only opens for a special event.
    • Snapshot: A count of drive-ins that were open for regular business during that year's season.
    • Real-Time: A live view of data in database at that moment (it fluctuates frequently).
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