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The Death of the American Drive-in 236

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Claire Suddath writes in Businessweek that the number of drive-ins in America has dwindled from over 4,000 in the 1960s to about 360 today. Since Hollywood distributors are expected to stop producing movies in traditional 35 millimeter film by the end of this year and switch entirely to digital, America's last remaining drive-ins — the majority of which are still family-owned and seasonally operated — could soon be gone. 'We have challenges that other movie theaters don't,' says John Vincent, president of United Drive-In Theater Owners Association and the owner of Wellfleet Drive-In in Cape Cod, Mass. 'We have fewer screens and can only show one or two movies a night. Now we have to spend tens of thousands of dollars just to stay in business.' According to Vincent, only 150 drive-ins have converted to digital so far — the other 210 have until the end of the year either to get with the program or go out of business. It may seem silly to fret over the fate of 210 movie theaters whose business model is outdated, even compared with regular movie theaters, but Honda Motor Co. is offering help with a program called 'Project Drive-In.' The car company is planning to give away five digital projectors by the end of the year. Winners will be determined by voting from the public, which can be done online through Sept. 9 at ProjectDriveIn.com. 'Cars and drive-in theaters go hand in hand,' says Alicia Jones, manager of Honda & Acura social marketing, 'and it's our mission to save this slice of Americana that holds such nostalgia for many of us.'"
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The Death of the American Drive-in

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  • by pipatron ( 966506 ) <pipatron@gmail.com> on Sunday August 18, 2013 @08:49AM (#44599495) Homepage
    Perhaps the requirements for displaying a bright image 100 feet away outdoors is higher than your pocket alarm clock LED projector?
  • by GrumpySteen ( 1250194 ) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @09:02AM (#44599543)

    You might as well ask why a Lamborghini cost is six figures since you bought a CitroÃn C1 last week for less than ten thousand.

    A good consumer level digital projector has to be able to project an image covering an area of twenty square feet or so before it becomes so dim that it's unpleasant and will be designed to work with a screen only ten or fifteen feet away. That requires only one or two thousand lumens of output. What you bought for 30 quid probably produces a few hundred lumens.

    The digital projector for a theater has to project an image that will cover over a hundred square feet without being so dim that it's unpleasant and the screen is most likely fifty to a hundred feet away depending on the size of the theater. The output needed to do that is on the order of 20,000 lumens and up.

  • Not dead yet (Score:5, Informative)

    by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @09:12AM (#44599577) Homepage
    A new drive-in [dannyboysdrivein.com] (a mom-n-pop type operation) opened this year in West Michigan, and seems to be doing quite well, and there's a long-standing 4-screen drive-in complex [celebrationcinema.com] (owned by the local cinema chain) – already converted to digital – about an hour away. Meanwhile there's a popular weekly free-movies-in-the-park program in East Grand Rapids. Watching movies outdoors is still pretty popular, so if they're run properly, offering a social experience that people can't get in the living room or crowded into theater rows, there's no reason drive-ins can't stay in business.
  • Re:Dude... (Score:5, Informative)

    by gigne ( 990887 ) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @09:27AM (#44599627) Homepage Journal

    Dude from the UK here. How the hel would we watch a movie through all the rain?

  • by interval1066 ( 668936 ) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @10:41AM (#44600107) Homepage Journal

    That is because the pirates got there first.

    Drive-ins were in decline long before the "pirate hordes" started pirating. I started dating a girl in '95, and we decided we wanted to go to a drive in one night. She knew of a drive-in she had frequnted in her life (she lived in the area all her life), so we go. Closed. We wound up at one the next town over. I've been noticing these places closing over the course of the last 30 years though.

  • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Sunday August 18, 2013 @04:41PM (#44602157)

    Well, good news then. A SMALL drive-in screen is only 60 feet by 30 feet, so your 150 dots-per-inch requirement would only necessitate a projector with a resolution of 108,000 by 54,000. How much is that unit?

    The DPI as a measure of video dot density for video projection is not a measure of density on the physical screen.

    This has to be measured from the position of the viewer, who is not standing directly in front of this 60' x 30' screen -- they are in fact some distance away from it. So this "60' x 30'" screen appears to be much smaller than its actual size --- the farther away the screen is from the viewer, the smaller the screen will appear.

    The video DPI or samples per inch, is measured as the density of the dots on the virtual screen directly in front of the viewer, after accounting for the distances, which is a small fraction of the size of the physical screen.

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