When was the last time you went to a drive in movie? Admittedly, the pickings are pretty scarce these days. At last count there were only 559 drive-in screens at 317 locations remaining in the United States and even less in Canada and Australia. While many states have multiple outdoor venues to watch film, many only have one or just a few.
This is a far cry from the glory days of the Drive-in. In the late 50’s, some estimates have the number of venues reaching over 4600. The drive-in is a uniquely American business and mostly mom and pop operations. While other countries have copied them, their numbers fall far short of America in its heyday.
From the introduction of home video equipment and cable channels in the late seventies to the most recent cost of conversion from analog (photochemical film) to digital (disc or server based) have been cited as reasons the drive-ins are going out of business. Obviously, these are contributing factors. But the sharp downturn over the years is due to multiple factors many having nothing to do with technology.
The migration of populations from city to suburbs, the cost of the land as those suburbs became more valuable, the building of malls with movie theaters making them convenient to suburbia, the limitation of drive-in hours to after dark and how daylight savings time made that worse, cars getting smaller because of the cost of gas, multiple gas crises as a reason to not even start the car all, even down to neck rests blocking the back seat view all provided reasons to stay home and caused drive-ins to close permanently. Life in America was changing and drive-ins, by their very nature, could not keep up.
On June 6th, it will be ‘National Drive In Movie day’. It celebrates the first opening of an installation that made it easy for families to go to the movies and dating couples a private place to either experience the movie or each other. According to DriveInMovie.com, “June 6th, 1933, Richard Hollingshead opened the first, permanent drive-in theater in Camden, NJ.” He was granted a patent in May of 1933 and a month later he opened the first drive-in and called it the Automobile Movie Theatre. Hollingshead never made any money off his idea and sold it to a new owner who changed the venue location.
The next year, 1934, a second drive-in was to open in Orefield, Pennsylvania, and had more luck than Hollingshead’s project. This year celebrates the 85th year of continuous service from Shankweiler’s Drive-in “making it the oldest continuous operating drive-in in the world.” Shankweiler’s has changed owners a number of times, but it has never been closed for a season.
DriveInMovies.com says, “…with any luck, the number of drive-in theaters in the U.S. will increase this year for the first time in decades. While one year does not make a trend, it would certainly be refreshing to see this authentic American past time make a comeback.“
DriveInMovie.com maintains a database to of all currently operating drive-in theaters in the world as well as a list of closed theaters.
From a technical standpoint, drive-ins have not changed that much over the years. Sound was the initial challenge. In the beginning years, theater owners tried keeping the speakers near the screen but not everyone liked keeping their windows open. The cars in the front complained about how loud the film was. The cars in the back could barely hear and, depending on how big a parking area it was, the sound would not be in sync with the picture. Also there were complaints from the developing neighborhoods in the homes nearby.
RCA came to the rescue. In 1941, they invented the drive-in car speaker system what would deliver the sound to each individual car. Each speaker had a volume control and so each car could adjust the sound to the liking of the occupants. Complaints from growing suburbia went away but new problems came from customers forgetting to replace the speaker back on the holder. They would start to drive away with it still hanging in the car window.
As car manufacturers began to offer more sound options as standard equipment, the 1970’s brought the car radio into play as an important part in delivering the soundtrack to the customer. They kept some of the speakers on the poles so they didn’t have to turn away customers during the transition. Eventually, the problem of forgetting about the speaker in the windows became a thing of the past.
Initially, standard AM radio low power transmitters were used. As film progressed to higher quality soundtracks, drive-ins began to use FM and its stereo capabilities. Today, almost all theaters transmit their sound via FM Radio. The first drive-ins to use FM generally meant a transmitter that was intended for the home theater rather than a professional venue. But some companies are filling that void with professional gear to deliver a reliable, full fidelity signal to the customer.
In the beginning, going to the movies meant getting dressed up to go out on a night on the town (Yes, people did that in the 50’s and early 60’s). Drive-ins provided America with the option to just get in the car and go. Their kids could come in their pajamas and curl up with blankets in the back seat. In fact, the kids were welcome! Usually to go “in town” to a movie required the family hire a babysitter (adding another cost to the evening). At the drive-in the kids usually got in for free or at least at a reduced rate. “Come as you are and sit in your car” was the way the newspaper ads put it.
When television first started draining off the audience and keeping people home, the theaters had their first modification crisis as wide screen productions became immediately popular for films. All the more elaborate drive-in screens from the early fifties currently in existence have “wings” added to them to accommodate the conversion from Academy ratios (1.33:1) to most of the wide screen ratios.
In the seventies and eighties the advent of cable TV, satellites, and VCR’s were the first challenges faced by drive-ins regarding the state of the art of technology. Now families could just stay home to watch a current movie. The whole family could be in their pajamas and no one would care!
The cable into the home first provided HBO then Showtime with movies just out of the theatre circuit. These were the days when the movies opened in the bigger cities and got to the drive-ins three weeks or more later. About the same time the movie was getting to your local drive-in, HBO was starting to play it out to your TV set. (A serendipitous note here – HBO began its life on November 8, 1972 in Wilkes Barre, PA, just a little over an hour’s drive from Orefield, PA, where Shankweiler’s Drive-in was located).
Then the VCR’s came on the market. In 1975, Sony launched its Betamax recording system. Two years later, the VHS (for Video Home System) format came on the market. Initially, the cost for these units was considerable ($1000 or more was not unheard of) but the prices quickly dropped. It wasn’t long after that local shops began to pop up carrying movies for rent. These, like the drive-ins, grew out of mom and pop entrepreneurs. Pick-up a couple of movies on the way home on a Friday evening and you have programs for the kids and for mom and dad to watch after the kids had gone to bed.
Speaking of getting the kids to bed, one reason VHS won out over Betamax wasn’t necessarily just because it could record a two hour full-length movie (Betamax tape maxed out at just one hour). As Wired magazine reported in their June 4, 2010, issue, “Sony reportedly would not let pornographic content be put on Betamax tapes while JVC and the VHS consortium had no such qualms.” Drive-ins did get involved in showing X-Rated product, but they also faced an outraged public over it since their screens could sometimes be seen outside of the confines of their parking lot.
About this the same time, the drive-in on the outskirts of town discovered it now was in the middle of several new housing developments. Couple this with families facing gas shortages, multiplexes springing up in the new megamall and developers lusting after the huge lot of land just sitting empty most of the time and closures seemed inevitable.
It wasn’t until the conversion to digital brought the prospect of redoing all the technical equipment that the last holdouts started throwing in the towel. The projectors and sound systems had lasted so many years by just keeping up with the maintenance. Changing over to file based systems required more than just a state of the art projector (although that was a major financial consideration). Overall, each screen was going to require $60,000 or more! By and large, these owners didn’t have deep pockets. If they weren’t owned by a large multiscreen operation that could amortize that size of an investment, they were likely not to make it!
One that is surviving is the Rodeo Drive-In in Bremerton, Washington. Their location was built in 1949. Since 1986, the Rodeo has been owned by Jack and Cindy Ondracek and family. According to their website, “Today, with three screens and a car capacity of 1000, they are the largest outdoor theatre complex in Washington State.” In 2012, they converted all three of their screens to digital. They tell their story of the conversion here.
As other operators who had been around since the 50’s or 60’s were getting older, they were looking to find a way to retire. If a property management group came calling and offered up to $500,000 to buy the drive-in (for its land value), most of the operators saw it was a way to retire comfortably. As digital moved forward they could no longer get product from the distributors. It was time they put up the “Closed Permanently” sign. Before long a real estate developer called on them with a substantial check in his hand for their property.
It was easy for the developers to erase all vestiges of the theater. The only substantial demolition required was tearing down the concession stand and, depending on the venue, the screen. Many screens were just attached to wood poles or a few girders for support. If they were more elaborate, it might take longer. The rest of the property was at most asphalt parking spaces.
Of the venues who did manage to ante up the conversion costs most are still with us. While the days of over a thousand venues are permanently in our rear view mirrors, the industry believes there is hope for a resurgence. We need to have something to show what life was like when the boomer generation left their homes in pajamas, cuddled up in the backseat and watch the latest Disney film under the stars.
For a nostalgic trip back in time as well as an analysis of the drive-in phenomenon, a documentary was produced in 2014 about drive-ins. “The Definitive Story of the American Drive-in Movie” was directed by April Wright and is available on DVD in stores and via several streaming services.
Vertigo was only received in a lukewarm fashion when it debuted, but now we think it’s one of the best movies of all time. What happened?
Alfred Hitchcock is a true master and one of the greatest directors of all time. His work has shaped everything from Jordan Peele’s Us to M. Night Shyamalan’s Sixth Sense. There’s no doubt Hitch left an indelible mark on Hollywood, especially thanks to his seminal films Psycho, The Birds, and Rear Window.
When people bring up Vertigo, they usually refer to it as “that weird one,” at least that’s what my friend said when I mentioned writing this article.
Today, Vertigo is heralded as one of the best and most important movies ever made, but when it came out, it received mixed reviews. In fact, Variety said “Vertigo is prime though uneven Hitchcock and with the potent marquee combination of James Stewart and Kim Novak should prove to be a highly profitable enterprise at the box office.”
So how did Vertigo become one of the most celebrated movies of all time?
Kinefinity announced and released the KineOS 6.2 firmware update a month ago but at the time, only the download for the MAVO LF & MAVO was available. It is now available for the TERRA 4K. New TERRA 4K Frame Rates KineOS 6.2 adds a number of performance improvements for the TERRA 4K, increasing the max … Continued
The post KineOS 6.2 Firmware Now Available for TERRA 4K adding new frame rates appeared first on Newsshooter.
For Leica lovers with money to burn…behold the Noctilock.
Keeping your camera gear secure is extremely important, which is why many filmmakers put locks on their camera bags as a (slight) deterrent for thieves.
Well, Walter Pretorius of Walter Leica, maker of all things Leica-inspired, has unveiled the Noctilock, a new limited-edition combination lock for your camera bag.
The Noctilock, the name of which is a play off of Leica’s legendary, super fast Noctilux lenses, is a hand-crafted combination lock made from solid brass with an authentic ostrich leather inlay. The front lens swivels to set the combination.
And yes, it looks a lot like a Leica camera…it’s even got a little red dot to represent the iconic red logo and everything.
Oh, did I mention that it costs $138?
As the market continues to swing towards mirrorless cameras, most people see it as a sign that DSLRs are on their way out. However, one camera company seems to believe that the mirrorless hype will be short-lived, with users flocking back to DSLRs in the near-future.
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What’s the most important thing to master in photography? I asked this question to ten photographers and eight gave the same answer: composition. More than gear or technical know-how, understanding composition and avoiding common errors that many people make will help you improve your photography more than anything else.
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To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Bauhaus school of art and design in Germany, Leica has released a special edition version of its Leica CL camera system, complete with a matching Elmarit-TL 18mm F2.8 lens and carrying strap to complete the kit.
With the exception of two small visual changes, this special edition Leica CL remains nearly identical to its less-special counterpart, complete with a 24-megapixel sensor, 4K video and wireless connectivity. The two changes are the addition of a ‘Bauhaus’ logo embossed into the black leather wrap on the front of the camera and a notable change to the usually-red Leica nameplate on the front—it’s now black.
Leica describes the special edition as ‘an elegant, iconic piece of german product design, that exemplary obeys the principle of form follows function.’
Included with the camera in the special edition kit is a matching silver Elmarit-TL 18mm F2.8 lens and a black leather carrying strap that’s also embossed. The sets, of which only 150 will be produced, will be individually numbered and retail for $3,750 exclusively at Leica Stores and Boutiques.
Just about anyone who has played with Photoshop a bit can learn about portrait retouching from YouTube, as there are tens of thousands of videos on there covering the many and varied methods involved in the process. But what about tutorials for photographers who are legitimately brand new to Photoshop, and have never used it?
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Ariana Grande may be everywhere at the moment, but that hasn’t stopped the chart-topper becoming the latest in an ever-expanding line of celebrities to face copyright laws. She is now being sued after posting paparazzi photos of herself to her Instagram page, so we ask, should photographers be paid for their usage of such images on Instagram?
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Canon’s new RF 85mm f/1.2 L has been officially announced, along with a hefty price tag. Considering the specifications and market this lens will compete in, is the price fair?
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I remember the days when all I wanted was that next piece of gear, one more light, a newer body, the latest tech, the highest pixel count, and the lowest aperture. I was certain I was only one purchase away from better work. I wasn’t, and chances are, neither are you.
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There are mysterious places that swirl with intrigue and evoke dreams of the sights that lie within the unknown. These are the places that often seem so perfectly suited for a photographer with a wandering spirit. Arriving at the wondrous location, however, is only half the battle for the inclined documenter.
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Lightroom’s Dehaze tool can be a lifesaver in certain cases, bringing back photos that you might not have been able to recover otherwise. But that doesn’t mean you should always use it whenever you see a bit of fog or haze in your photos. This great video shows you the ins and outs of the tool and discusses the best and worst cases for its usage.
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