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How to Start a Drive-In Theater

How to Start a Drive-In Theater

Are you a fan of retro style and old movies? Consider learning how to start a drive-in theater. While not nearly as popular as in decades past, the drive-ins that remain really pack in the cars on a regular basis.

Starting a drive-in theater is not the easiest business to get off the ground, but if you have the drive and ambition it takes, it can be a very lucrative endeavor. Especially if you already have land in a decent location, the profit margins can be quite attractive.

What You’ll Need to Succeed

As you think about how to start a drive-in theater, decide if you’ll offer the standard snacks and soda that people buy at movie houses or if you will go a step further and provide a full service snack bar, with dinner food, like hamburgers, hotdogs, and pizza. While these kinds of foods could spell disaster for a traditional theater’s seats, you won’t have to worry about that, because the seats are in the movie goers’ cars.

If you do decide to offer a wide range of food, you might need a different kind of permit or health inspection, so be sure to check on this before finalizing your decision.

Location will be the most important and maybe the trickiest part of starting a drive-in theater. You don’t want your theater to be too far from where people live, but typically cannot be very close to a residential area and must be where there is not too much light once the sun goes down.

The best case scenario would be to find an abandoned drive-in theater and renovate it to bring it up to standards. This will avoid having to start from a bare piece of land and build a snack bar, ticket booths, and screen structures.

However you end up going, you will need to purchase projection and sound equipment. Unlike the old time drive-in theaters, today’s drive-ins offer a sound system that allows patrons to listen to the movie through their vehicle’s radio, which eliminates the need to supply sound equipment at every space.

Another decision to be made when learning how to start a drive-in is whether you will offer first-run movies or classic films. The difference in fees and difficulty to acquire films is substantial, with older movies being much easier and more affordable.

Marketing A Drive-In Theater

Unless you live in a big city, word will travel fast that a new drive-in theater has opened up in town. Still, you want to do all you can to keep the buzz going and keep patrons coming back. Promotions, like family movie night, contests, and special events are a few of the things you can do to keep people interested in your theater. You could also focus on one movie genre for a week or two, like westerns or gangster movies. Use your imagination and see what you can come up with.

Also remember you have a large piece of land that will only be used for movies at night. To make the most of the space and maximize your income, you can have a flea market during the day, or rent out the space for festivals and shows. Learning how to start a drive-in theater is only the beginning!