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1952 Theatre Catalog, 10th Edition, Page 236 (201)

1952 Theatre Catalog, 10th Edition
1952 Theatre Catalog
1952 Theatre Catalog, 10th Edition, Page 236
Page 236

Drive-ins Mentioned

Chief Drive-In Theater, Austin, TX

1952 Theatre Catalog, 10th Edition, Page 236

with no problems of dress, parking, or baby sitters to interfere. Rachlin was highly enthusiastic about the idea.

Before many hours had passed, the Austin Symphonyls eXecutive committee met and decided to go ahead with the novel project. As the idea took form, it became increasingly involved, and it was necessary to call upon many persons in various fields to help, advise, and contribute their services.

Shortly afterward, some 1600 persons filling approximately 400 cars drove into Austinls Chief Drive-In one Sunday afternoon to hear the worlds first drivein "popsli concert. Under a brilliant Texas sun, they heard conductor Rachlin lead the 65-piece, blue denim-clad Austin Symphony Orchestra in a first half program which included the ftTriumphal March" from ttAida"; Bizetls "UArlesienne Suite? and uThe Millefs Dance," from de Falla,s ttThe ThreeCornered Hat."

By intermission time, it was evident that the experiment had been a tremendous success. A spot check revealed that 97 persons (or 58%) out of 167 interviewed had never before attended a symphony concert. Many took advantage of the $1.50 per car admission price to bulge their cars with extra passengers. Nine boys and girls, all wedged into one convertible, confessed they had left one car outside. One truck carried 30 students of the University of Texase and was admitted for the price of a single ticket. But four persons per car was the average.

Director Rachlin supervised the staging of the concert with the deftness of a seasoned showman. He had eight boys on horseback and 20 girls, all high

school students, working as car ushers, ticket takers, and souvenir program sellers. As part of the pre-Concert promotion, he announced that the owner of the oldest car present would be given a pass good for the remainder of the symphony series. He persuaded a local gas station operator to donate $10 in merchandise to the owner of the 325th car passing through the entrance gates.

Rachlin opened the second half of the concert with Straussi thmperor Waltz." Then he introduced the soloist of the afternoon. Betty Jean Kimble, attractive young daughter of an Arizona rancher. Walking out on the specially constructed 12-foot high platform in front of the screen, attired in impeccable Western regalia, she was greeted with a few appreciative hornetoots from the audience. After she sang three songs, a blast of auto horns, substituting for applause, brought her back for an encore.

At this stage of the concert, hornblowing was accepted as a logical case of function creating form. But when a sustained blast of 400 horns greeted the conclusion of the first number on the program, conductor Rachlin was visibly startled. As he said afterward, uFor a moment I had the crazy idea it was an air raid alarm. Then I thought maybe there was a tire and then I got the horrible idea that maybe they didn,t like our music. The truth finally dawned on me, but I must say, I was a bit unnerved." At the finale of the program, an all-out cacaphony of horns indicated that the historic event was successful enough to warrant a complete series of Sunday afternoon concerts every year.

That was about three years ago. Since that first drive-in symphony concert a

few other outdoor theatres have conducted similar experiments, and have been so successful that it would seem highly advantageous for other showmen to explore the possibilities of such special programs at their theatres.

Mainly because most drive-ins are obliged to show pictures a relatively long time after their date of release, the outdoor theatre is often regarded as a second-rate form of entertainment. This unfortunate impression can be dispelled immediately and the theatre can be elevated to its rightful position of prominence through the prestige it would acquire through sponsoring high quality musical programs.

The problem of obtaining suitable talent for such shows should not be too difficult. Deluxe drive-ins near large cities might offer their facilities to distinguished symphony orchestras, just as the Chief Drive-In at Austin did, and it seems likely that many orchestras would welcome the opportunity to perform in the pleasant surroundings and for the large-capacity crowds that the outdoor theatre could afford. In smaller communities, where there are almost always at least one amateur or professional serious music group, the outdoor theatre would, again, provide the ideal showcase for their talents and it is most likely that such groups would be enthusiastic about performing for a drivein audience.

The concept of drive-in concerts is neither new nor theoretical; it is a Showmanship idea of proved worth and precedent. It offers a logical suggestion for making the drive-in a cultural center that can pay 01? handsomely in prestige, promotion, and profit.

THEEVENT was both a Hnancigl and technical success and received wide attention throughout the nation through coverage by the news-wire services. The audience was typical-oi the entire-iamily-car-load that is normal for drivea-in theatres, and ushers were decked in cowboy garb and rode "broncs." Special sound engineers carefully mixed and supervrsed the sound delivered to each car through the usual individual speakers. as well as direct trom the screen tower stage.


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1952 Theatre Catalog, 10th Edition, Page 236