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1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition, Page 497 (471)

1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition
1945 Theatre Catalog
1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition, Page 497
Page 497

1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition, Page 497

Drive-In Theatres and Their Construction

Pros and Cons of the Outdoor Auto Theatre Summarizing Principles of Their Planning

The drive-in theatre is now recognized by both independent and large circuitoperators as an extremely lucrative business.

The first known installation of a drivein theatre was started in 1933, just outside the city of Camden, by Park-In Theatres, Inc., Camden, New Jersey. By 1940, over one hundred of these theatres were in operation throughout the United States.

Contrary to what was expected when the drive-in theatres first opened, attendance at the nearby enclosed theatres was not adversely affected, because the drivein audience was made up largely of a clientele which had not been in the habit of attending the motion-picture theatre in the past. This clientele included mothers with small children (about 80 percent); laborers and factory workers who, coming from a hard days work in old clothes, did not want to go to the bother of dressing but wanted to relax in the open air; stout people who found the average theatre chairs uncomfortable; elderly people; people in ill health; cripples and other shut-ins. It was found that the drive-in theatre also appealed to many of the young people Who had not been in the habit of going to the movies in the past, but who found in the drive-in theatre a picnic-like atmosphere; a chance for an automobile ride, and then an opportunity to see a moving picture in the open air while nibbling a hot dog and drinking soda pop.

Progressive theatre circuits and independent owners, realizing the popularity of this type of theatre, as well as the tremendous profit it offered, built approximately fifty drive-ins during 1940 and 1941. In 1942, plans were made for the construction of approximately fifty more, but most had to be shelved because of War Production Board restrictions on building materials, and motion-picture sound and projection equipment.

Most drive-in theatres include concession stands which offer for sale, candy, soft drinks, hot dogs, popcorn, ice cream, tobacco, and the like.

The refreshment stand has been found to be a very profitable operation in the drive-in theatre, the gross revenue being reported to be as high as 40 percent of the gross revenue from the sale of admission tickets. Another very profitable service is a gasoline filling station, with entrances from the highway and from the exit of the theatre. Many other extra services are being made in the planning of post-war drive-in theatres.

The great interest being shown in the drive-in theatre will result in considerable activity in this type of construction when building materials and equipment are again available. Many Governmental agencies and equipment manufacturers predict that more than two hundred more drive-in theatres will be constructed



By W. W. SMer President, Park-In Theatres, Inc.

when the green light finally comes on.

In the years ahead, automobiles will be more numerous than ever 'and many additional thousands of people will be able to drive to the open-air theatre. Improvements in operating technique, together with better projection and sound equipment, will make the drive-in theatre a source of more entertainment than ever before.


The drive-in theatre offers many advantages over indoor theatres, and it also has a number of disadvantages. The most important advantage to the owner is the lesser property, construction, and equipment cost of the drive-in theatre over the indoor theatres. While the drivein theatre requires .considerably more ground space than an indoor theatre, the square-foot cost of the ground is generally lower, because the drive-in theatre is best located on the edge of a city, while, of course, the indoor theatre, to be a profitable venture, must be located in a built-up neighborhood where property values are markedy higher. Even so, the initial ground cost of a large drive-in theatre should not be any more than that for a down-town theatre of equal capacity.

Operational costs of the driveein theatres are materially less, as are the real estate taxes, building depreciation, and maintenance, cleaning, renovating, and general operation can be handled with fewer employees. With the exception of the extra usher service and maintenance required by sound equipment, the cost of operating the balance of the equipment is less because of the comparatively few hours of daily operation. The fact that there are no seats, carpeting, drapes, and other indoor theatre acoutrements to wear out in the drive-in theatre means the saving of an important operational cost.

Projection, on the average, is quite as good in the drive-in as in the urban theatre. The advantage of projection on the large screen (generally 30x40 feet in size) used in the drive-in is, however, sometimes lost by generally poorer definition.

Sound in the drive-in is often superior, especially when advanced-model in-car speakers are used, to that of many indoor theatres. When a central loudspeaker system is employed, synchronization of sound and picture may not be up to that in the urban theatre, because of the long distance between screen and the majority of the audience.

These disadvantages are important to consider, but as admission charges for the drive-in theatre are about the same as those of the average urban theatre, and the customer capacity of the drivein is far greater than the average indoor house, the annual gross receipts of the

THE DRIVE-IN THEATRE, from the drawing of the original patent, issued to Richard M. Hollingsheud, Jr., was an unpretentious development, as is shown here, being comprised of little more than a parking lot on which a proiection house and screen tower were installed. While some present-day architects still use the idea, if is interesting to note that the original plan called for a limited area for seating ut the screen end of the "auditorium."
1945 Theatre Catalog, 4th Edition, Page 497