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Friday, March 18, 2011

Diary of a Drive-In Theatre: Installment #1

IT'S NOT OFTEN THESE days that we get to consult on, design, and perform the build-out of a new Drive-In Theatre; however, we received a call about a month ago to do just that.  One of our cinema customers, who owns several multiplex movie theatres, asked us to meet and discuss with him and a landowner the feasibility of moving forward with their idea of building a new Drive-in Theatre  Since this project is still in the development stage I will wait and not divulge its name and location, at this time, other then to say that the site is located in a semi-rural area of a  mid-Atlantic state with no other Drive-ins even remotely close to it.

The parcel of land upon which the Drive-in will reside is large but has a high water table and is in a floodplain which makes it unsuitable for most commercial and certainly any residental development, but will work fine for a Drive-in with the right construction.


As of today, all but one of the required construction permits have been obtained and as we thought through the unique issues with the property and the current state of the cinema industry, we recommend that only two large screens be constructed capable of accommodating, at least, 600 cars each. This was done because we wanted to have large screens. I know this bucks the current trend of Drive-ins having multiple but smaller screens; however, I feel patrons want to view  movies on  large screens and a Drive-in is no exception. Additionally, we recommended that only one screen and projection booth be constructed for this summer's opening and the other in the summer of  2012.  This strategy allowed for assessing  the profitability of the Drive-in and would flush out any shortcomings or potential trouble spots encountered.

To side-step the water issue we recommended that the projection booth be constructed on stilts, much like the homes located on the southeastern coast of the U.S. In this case, the stilts would be telephone poles (which are easily obtained and water sealed). Only single phase power would be used, saving money on electrical power installation and, best of all, the concession areas and restrooms would be located in large movable trailers specifically outfitted for these purposes, and which could be moved and stored off-site, eliminating  the winter/spring flooding issues.

As the project moves forward I will be updating you with both narrative and photos, so keep on the look out for the next installment.

Best & Happy Movie Going
Jim Lavorato

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