Drive-ins were incredibly prolific in the 1950s. The combination of readily available and affordable cars, and teenagers looking to get away from their parents led to these outdoor cinemas enjoying considerable popularity.
However, the drive-in’s heyday started to decline in the ’70s and by the mid-80s, they were closing in droves. Home video caused many people to stay home, but one of the major considerations was the value of the land. As many towns expanded outwards, the drive-ins were no longer located far away. That increased the value of those particular plots, which were soon worth far when converted into shopping centers.
Drive-ins will never experience that kind of popularity again, but they have been getting more press lately, thanks to nostalgia and the fact that it is easier and cheaper to take a family to a drive-in than a multiplex.
As of this year, there are only 338 drive-ins left in the United States. A few decades back, it was not so unusual to have more than one in a single town; now you can drive through large sections of the country and not find a single one. In addition to fighting against the many forms of entertainment readily available, a good number could not afford the recent switch to digital projection and closed.
So, is a drive-in a good business investment? There are a few left that enjoy steady, large crowds, but generally, there are a lot safer ways for you to invest your money. If you do decide to open one, choose an area that is well away from expanding populations centers, but not so far away that people do not want to make the drive. Families tend to make up the lion’s share of patrons these days, so exhibitors tend to focus on booking movies that attract this demographic.