New Documentary Highlights The Tough Situation of America’s Iconic Drive-Ins

“I went to drive-ins with my family and saw less and less as I got older. I couldn’t understand why because we still have cars, we still love movies, there seemed to be no reason for them to look that way. Back to Drive-In.

It features eleven unique family-owned locations dotted across the United States and looks at the industry’s plight and the struggle to keep them going. This is Wright’s second documentary focusing on iconic locations; first, Attractions: The Definitive Story of American Drive-in MovieThey came out in 2013 and told their history. Back to Drive-In is is now Digital and On-Demand.

He wanted to make a sequel that focused on the people trying to keep them alive because “the cars with cars that remain are almost entirely family owned. It is these families who put their lives and souls to keep them alive and realize the importance they have for their local community.”

“I was actually at the United Drive-In Theater Owners Association Convention (UDITOA) in Orlando, Florida in February 2020 and told many of the owners there that I wanted to do this sequel and if people wanted to be part of it to let me know,” he recalled. wright “About a month later, there was the epidemic, everything was closed and the only show car entrances in town.”

The pandemic has led some in the film industry to adopt drive-in cinemas and use them to premiere movies that cannot be shown in indoor movie theaters. These include Universal Studios’ strangefeatured in the documentary premiered at the now closed Mission Tiki Drive-In Theater in Montclair, California. Actor-director Dave Franco’s directorial debut, For rentpremiered at the Vineland Drive-In theater in City of Industry, California. Both events took place at the height of the pandemic in 2020.

However, by the summer of 2021, Wright took the field. Originally planning only three or four car entrances, the filmmaker increased the number to eleven as he wanted a broader idea of ​​what’s going on in rural areas as well as cities. It was a mixed picture.

“I’ve been in the business for 35 years and there are many reasons why drive-in cars get pulled to the side of the road, but the biggest of them all has to do with making products and movies,” President John Vincent added. Owner of UDITOA and owner-operator of Wellfleet Drive-In and Cinemas in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. “We were in the spotlight with the move to digital because that was a pretty expensive transition about a decade ago. It was a kind of doomsday scenario where cars with cars would be made to go digital. He was a media persona until COVID hit.”

While the interest was appreciated and the trade increased, Vincent acknowledged that there was an element of disappointment in perception but that he had a theory.

“McDonald’s existed in the 50s, indoor movie theaters existed in the 50s, so why are we representing a bygone era?” he thought. “It has a lot to do with the fact that we only have ten percent or less left. I think it makes us look like we’re classics, but it’s still a great way to watch movies and that hasn’t changed.”

“It takes a certain kind of people to service the car because it’s not an easy job, so you have to have passion,” Wright added.

While some drive-ins are passed down from generation to generation, new blood is coming despite the pressures and starting from scratch.

“There are some young people who take over places, but sometimes a long-time employee at that location eventually takes over,” Wright explained. “There’s a connection between wanting to provide that experience and good memories that you want to share with other people, and I think that’s what all owners have in common.”

“They’re very passionate about keeping them going and the value it brings to society, but maybe you should be a little crazy because there are so many hurdles.”

“In any public business, you have to be a certain personality type to engage with the public every day. They are entrepreneurs. In essence, when you think of someone who wants to live the American dream and own a business, those people are them.”

The value offered by the pricing model has created additional appeal for both new and returning audiences, with several locations in the documentary pushing the boundaries with themes and special programs.

“It goes beyond the movie, it’s about the experience and its showmanship, and I tried to show it in different ways,” Wright said. “All these different aspects of attracting people, from beer and food to playground doubles and family movies, are the bread and butter.”

Vincent added, “You go in indoor movie theaters and it’s 100 percent about the movie, it’s a bit about the experiences with the sound, the screen, and the nice seats, but the drive-in experience is the greatest experience. Actors and actresses have been on stage at things like CinemaCon and they remember their first drive-in movies but didn’t see their first movie theaters. They said they didn’t remember.”

The rise in the profile of the pandemic has also created opportunities for those who distribute genre content, with some films making box office history.

“During the pandemic, there was an increase in fear because fewer studio products were coming out, and some of these mini-majors did well by putting a lot of horror movies in drive-in theaters. People going out during the pandemic,” said the producer.

Vincent interrupted, “Even then, some drive-ins go well with fear and always have, but some like me deal with it horribly. We tried.”

However, the hard times continued for some, with one participant in the documentary saying they only made $5 in profit overnight.

“Everyone was ignored during the pandemic, when studios finally got a chance to do what they wanted to test for a while, and that was putting movies directly on streaming platforms,” the producer said. Many have now realized that this is not the best way to go for their new releases and especially their big movies. I don’t think it’s done well financially for any of their titles.”

“I feel like studios are coming back to embrace that there should be a theatrical component, but I will say that some terms are easier for larger cinemas that have more influence on how many weeks certain things should stay on screens etc.”

Wright continued, “When you talk about drive-in movie theaters, indie theaters, one-screen movie theaters, especially if they’re in a more rural area and you have to keep the same movie on screen for three or four weeks. It’s boring them. It’s boring places and giving them a hard time.”

He wants to see multiple term layers or different term groups depending on the venue. “This could make a big difference,” he suggested. “The model is not designed for drive-in entrances and most of these independent cinemas.”

In some cases, studios charge three weeks for big titles and single-screen theaters, drive-in theaters, and the like. That said, car startups continue to innovate and find new ways to generate additional income from traditional money-turners like concessions and developing great products.

“Similar to indoor theaters, compromises are the big thing when it comes to revenue, but commercial products are something newer and gaining more momentum,” Wright confirmed. “Almost every drive-in has t-shirts or hats and stuff like that. It’s a unique revenue channel and they’re leaning towards it.”

“It’s become a place where people want to visit and buy souvenirs. You wouldn’t think I should go to an AMC theater and leave with a T-shirt that says AMC, but you go to Wellfleet. I think I want to buy a T-shirt to remember the Drive-In and the good times you had there.”

“It’s all connected. We couldn’t pay 100 percent rentals and live on franchise income; we just couldn’t make movies with excellent rental rates and get concessions. That’s all a big piece of the pie. But the pandemic has hit that hard,” Vincent complained. “There were some jurisdictions that banned franchise sales in 2020.”

“Fortunately, we were all doing retro impressions at the time, and obviously, terms have dropped to 30 or 40 percent instead of 50 to 60 percent, which has helped. Merchandise sales are becoming a bigger piece of the puzzle. “From five to ten percent of concessions. To meet demand, we’ve just expanded an online store and even allocated a fulfillment center to our property.”

Wright’s documentary Back to Drive-In there is no dot at the end of this cultural and commercial sentence.

“We’re definitely in the middle of a transition, not just for cars with cars, but for the film industry. Last summer, Top Gun: Maverick “It really helped, but everything else went well and we’re still not back where we were.” “

“Also, in the last two years, we’ve seen more cars with cars change hands than in the last 30, we’ve seen cars with cars changing hands, but there’s also tons of cars with cars that aren’t open.” It’s been coming back for decades and new ones are being built from the ground up.”

Wright continued, “I’m optimistic that compared to going into the pandemic, the numbers are down and we know we’re lower than at the start, but I’m optimistic that they can rise again in the next three years.” to five years.”

Vincent added, “Give us the movies and people will come. Everything will be fine.” “2023 isn’t there in terms of schedule, but some great movies are coming out this summer. Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning and new Indiana Jones, but 2024 looks great. In a way, I’m almost glad that the Band-Aid ripped in the goofy stream. They learned the lesson that there is nothing that can make money as much as transaction revenue.”

“I think drive-ins will be here for a very long time, but so will the pressures, including rising land prices. At this point, I’d rather open a drive-in than a closed movie theater, and I’ve been told by other operators that some internal operators are entering the drive-in area. “

“I know for sure there are several salon operators I’ve talked to, including one of my local salon competitors who are eager to do this. They’re just looking for the right opportunity. We can make studios a lot of money and if done right it can be a good business.”

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