So how are these places staying afloat in this, the age of mini-TVs in minivan headrests? According to Jillian, it's all about knowing their audience.
"We had two main groups keeping us afloat," she explained. "[The first] was families. The kids could run around and yell all they want. It's not enclosed like a movie theater, and no mom or dad would have to embarrassingly leave with their crying kid. The other were people who remembered [drive-ins] from their youth -- the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers. There were some teenagers too, but it was mostly families and old people."
If they had an equal mix of teens and seniors they could have sold demolition derby tickets to families watching them try to park.
Those groups are responsible for just about all of a drive-in's business. And needless to say, it's not enough. Some drive-ins have had to rely on Kickstarters and Indiegogo campaigns to stay alive. Many, however, turn to the less-respectable option of promo nights.
"We tried a few times to 'enhance' movies," remembered Corey. "When we opened up one year with a second run showing of The Mist, we had a 'special effects' midnight showing. That meant we had a few fog machines around and would turn them on whenever the mist on screen played an important role. No indoor theater would do this. We had picked a windy night to open up the year, and every time we turned on the fog machine the smoke would head right to the outdoor grass seating area and we would hear a ton of coughs. I guess our 'mist' really was trying to kill people."
"Make-up for Dawn of the Dead night would have been too expensive."
Finally, it's important to do all this on the cheap. Jillian's drive-in charged five bucks for a standard adult ticket. Corey's was $15 per car. "Teenagers would come in a pickup truck with three in the cab and six in the bed. That would be, what, $90 at a theater?"
That's a $75 dollar difference, and coincidentally, that's also exactly the price point where poison mist and killer birds become tolerable.
Evan V. Symon is an interviewer, writer and interview finder guy at Cracked. Have an awesome job/experience you would like to see as an article? Then hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org today!
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