Monday, August 1, 2011

Can Drive-Ins Make a Comeback?

In this age of digital media and mobile media devices, you now have the technology to watch movies on your cell phone if you so desire. Yes, we live in a world where you can have access to your media any time and anywhere. Of course, in this new bold world there have been many casualties, including the drive-in theater. The days when you packed up the family and enjoyed a movie under the stars have been long-gone. It seems as quaint and ancient as analog television.

But it looks like the drive-in theater is mounting a comeback. I read a recent article in my local newspaper about a new drive-in that may open in Northern Kentucky in the near future. That would most certainly be bucking the current trend.

In 1958, at the height of their popularity, over 4,000 drive-ins dotted the landscape. According to the United Drive-in Theater Owners Association, today there’s only 374 that remain. As land values increased across America in the 1970s and 1980s,   drive-ins were sold to developers who used the land to build big-box stores such as Wal-Mart. However something was lost in the process. Drive-ins offered a different experience compared to the air-conditioned comfort of today's megaplexs. Seeing a movie on a large screen outdoors offered a certain charm, something special. Maybe the last remnants of the drive-in generation have decided to make a stand. Some are now taking their children to the remaining drive-ins, in an effort to revive a dying tradition.

I hope there’s still room for drive-ins in this modern age of digital media. Hopefully, we can recapture some of the magic when it was fun seeing the movie under the stars. I know I enjoyed it. So what made it so much fun? You got to see a double feature for the price of one movie. You didn’t have to get dressed up. If you wanted to wear your pajamas, nobody cared. You could take your lawn chairs or sit on top of the car. Concession stands always had a fine assortment of cholesterol-clogging foods to offer.

Today if you are under the age of 30 you probably don’t remember any of this. But now there is reason to be optimistic. Newer drive-ins are being built, and former drive-in theaters have been reopened. Here in the Cincinnati area, we have Starlite Drive-in in Amelia and the Holiday Auto Theater in Hamilton. Both have found a way to make it work. We are hopeful a new drive-in will be opening soon in Boone County, Kentucky.

Thanks to the digital age, the icon from the baby boomers heyday may find some help. Today’s drive-in theaters are relying on technology such as Facebook and Twitter to get the word out to the younger audience.

Now we can recapture some of the good things from the past while retaining the benefits of technology and today’s media choices.

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