Covering Kentucky

Aug 7, 2011 3:28 PM

Ky. Drive-In Theaters Popular Again

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Drive-in theaters are popular again in Kentucky after going through a period when it seemed as if the curtain would finally close on the outdoor movie venues.

Harry Roaden, owner and manager of the 27 Drive-In in Somerset, told the Lexington Herald-Leader ( that a downturn in business started in the 1980s when many drive-ins closed, but ticket sales have rebounded since them.

Roaden says he started seeing more customers in the 1990s, but things got even better starting in 2000.

The United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association's most recent statistics shows the state had 14 drive-ins with 20 screens open in 2010.

Chris Erwin, who manages Judy Drive-In in Mount Sterling, says despite all the new technology - including 3-D movies and better sound systems - he thinks there will always be a market for drive-ins because people don't go to a theater just to see a movie.

"It's the experience," he said. "The drive-in experience is one that can't be duplicated no matter what's on screen. Its charm is that it's simple."

The concept of the drive-in theater was first tested in New Jersey in 1932 and their popularity boomed in the 1950s and `60s before almost dying out in the late 1980s.

Roaden blamed television news stations for keeping people at home by broadcasting news reports during prime time.

"TV has stolen two hours of our prime time," he said. "If they would never have done that, there would be a drive-in with maybe 10 screens. Somebody stole the drive-in theater's life. "

Other problems included that drive-ins didn't show new releases and tended to show less popular movies not picked up by mainstream theaters.

But times have changed. In 2000, 27 Drive-In began showing only movies that were newly released.

"It was a new era for the drive-in theaters,"' Roaden said. "Now, if a movie does big, we do big. If it don't do as much, we don't do much either."

The drive-in theaters that survived the downturn are staying busy.

"On an average weekend night, we'll probably have anywhere from 500 to 800 people," said Joseph Miller, who manages Winchester's Sky-Vue Twin Drive-In. "For the big anticipated movies, we'll get close to 1,000 people if not sell out. "

Theater-goes say there are many things that attract them to drive-ins over indoor theaters.

"The main attraction is having your own area," C.J. Puckett of Winchester said. "It's really just about being able to do your own thing. You can talk and have a good time, not worrying about distracting other people.

"Also, they give you two movies for the price of one, which is always nice."


Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader,

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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