Thursday, May 31, 2007

"Drive-In Movie Theaters"

Skip to the random thought

What other exciting thing did Amber and I do last weekend? We went to a drive-in movie theater. I had never been to one, so I felt an obligation.

Problem is, there aren't many drive-ins around anymore. For the most part, drive-ins are a thing of the past. And that's too bad. According to a little thing that played before the movie, there were once over 4,000 drive-ins in the United States, but there are now only about 400. The reason? Money. These days, movie studios charge theaters a large percentage of their movie ticket prices. And since drive-ins only show one or two movies a night, a few nights a week, it's hard for them to make any money, outside of selling consessions. With this in mind, it's not surprising that we were unable to find a drive-in theater in the immediate Raleigh/Durham area. (There was one in Durham, but the owner recently passed away, and the theater has been closed since then.) Instead, we drove 50 miles north to the Raleigh Road Outdoor Theater in Henderson to see the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie, whatever it's called. Given, the financial hardships of today's drive-ins, it's beyond me how they're able to charge just $5/person for admission. (And, kids 12 and under are free!) That's cheaper than the student prices at most of today's theater conglomerates. Movies have become far too expensive to make it worth it anymore, but with the drive-in, it's a little cheaper, and you get to spend some time outside. Just don't forget the bug spray. (We didn't.) I think it's actually a better way to watch a movie, too. Instead of being crammed into a theater with a bunch of other people, you get to sit in your car, and actually talk during the movie. (They broadcast the movie audio on a short-range FM signal.) And given the cheap movie prices, I don't feel so bad about getting some popcorn.

There's another problem with drive-in theaters that we didn't have back in the 1960s: large trucks and SUVs. They're always getting in the way. So if you happen to have a smallish car (like, say, a 1991 Dodge Stealth), you better get up front or find a gap. We didn't get there early enough to get a front row spot, but we were able to find a gap, between the snack bar and where the parking spots start back up again. I think we lucked out there. They should make a rule - large trucks and SUVs to the rear!

The other thing with drive-ins is that you're pretty much at the mercy of whatever they decide to show, which is usually the "most popular movie" out at that time. I'm sure they showed Spider-man 3 recently. Next week? Shrek the Third. Then again, if you don't like the movie, then don't go. And, sometimes they show another less-popular movie afterwards, but the midnight start time is a little late for our tastes. (Even 900p is pushing it. We didn't get home until almost 100a.) But still - for $5/person, if you don't enjoy the movie (as was the case with this Pirates movie, Amber and me both), so what?

Again, the question: will we be back to the Raleigh Road Outdoor Theater? I hope so. It's a nicer movie experience than the traditional indoor theater, especially considering today's conglomerates. Smaller-type theaters like Galaxy Cinema aren't so bad, but I'm not sure if I'll be able go to back to AMC again. (Actually, that's not true. I still have a gift card.)

Today's random thought:

- The tennis scoring system is weird. I'm sure there's a story behind it, but as dumb as it seems, I think it actually makes tennis more interesting. What if tennis were to score their matches like other sports? What if their matches had a clock, and each point was simply worth one point? Then, tennis would be really boring - it would be just like the NBA. In my opinion, a five-set match between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal would be a lot more interesting than seeing Federer win the match by a score of 89-81.

1 comment:

Walter said...

I heard once (unconfirmed) that theaters actually don't get any profit at all from the first 6 weeks of a movie after release; all of it goes back to the studio. After that, the studio takes a progressively smaller share of the ticket price. So in the first several weeks of a movie, the theater makes money *only* on concessions. I'm not sure I entirely believe that, because there wouldn't be as much variance in ticket prices, but I do think it is a very large percentage of the ticket price.

Drive-ins can be much cheaper because there is far less infrastructure than a sit-in theater. All you need is a projector, huge screen, short-range FM transmitter, a concession stand, and a few acres of flat, open land. A regular theater needs a building and all the things that go with that (A/C, heating, etc), seats, speakers, along with most of those things a drive-in needs.

In Tucson I lived less than a mile from a drive-in that had four screens. It too was pretty cheap and was always a double-feature. And, with four screens, you have a little more flexibility in what to watch.