But in the last decade, drive-ins have been making a comeback. Some old drive-ins have reopened, others have expanded and new ones are popping up. While no one – either enthusiasts or those operating drive-ins – expects they’ll ever be as popular as they were in their heyday, drive-ins seem to have found a niche market and are holding their own.
One reason for drive-ins’ resurgence is how patrons see and hear the movie. These days a low-frequency radio signal does the job. Few people now stay inside their cars. Instead they open windows and turn up the sound system or use portable radios. Lawn chairs and coolers appear; it’s a cinematic tailgate experience.
The Route 66 Drive In of my childhood had been closed for almost 20 years when it was revived by the Knight family as part of their Knight’s Action Park complex. These days the Route 66 Drive In is open on weekends only from April 1 to Memorial Day weekend, when movies begin showing nightly. After Labor Day, they go back to weekends-only through the end of October. The movies are “second run,” meaning they’re shown a couple weeks after their initial opening. Attendance varies depending on what’s being shown and the weather, according to George Knight. But business is good enough that he sees the Route 66 Drive In continuing into the foreseeable future.
“We’ve got something for everybody,” Knight says. “There’s even a good-sized group that regularly comes in two big trucks. They unload a sofa, tables and lamps. It’s quite a deal.”
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