So in these days of downloads, Netflix, Hulu and big screens in your living room, justifying going out to a movie might be tough. Never mind justifying going to see a movie while sitting in your car.
But that's what Frank Fisher thinks you should do.
Fisher's Family has been running The Hollywood Drive-In on Route 66 (yep, a drive-in on Route 66) since 1952. He took a few minutes to talk with us about why he still runs the place, what people get out of going to a drive-in... and the woman who tied her boyfriend up in the trunk.
Of all the businesses you could own, why do you run a drive-in movie theater?
I love it! I've been here since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. It's just fun. I was running the projector when I was twelve. When you do that it's just part of you. People come here and have fun. They laugh. I really enjoy seeing the families together.
Yeah, but can you make any money doing this?
Not an exorbitant amount but you can do OK. It's viable for a seasonal business. I have another business that I run for the rest of the year.
I'm not in it to become a millionaire. I don't think I'd run out and open a new one right now -- they're pretty expensive to own and run. But I keep it going because it's part of American history. There are only a few hundred drive-in theaters left in the United States.
The drive-ins that are open are as popular today as they used to be. There was a time in the 70's when it was really, really bad -- when a drive in couldn't get first-run movies. They got a bad name somewhere along the line. But the nostalgia kind of brought them back.
I can see a movie much more comfortably in my own home or in a movie theater, so why should I come to a drive-in? What do you get from watching a movie at a drive-in that you can't get anywhere else?
It's a whole different experience. You're not on your couch. You're with your family or a boyfriend or girlfriend. You're outdoors. It's the experience of it. Of course, I don't get to watch the movie very often. I'm too busy running things. But that's what people say they like.
People bring their kids to the drive-in to share an experience they had when they were kids. They love to come with families, they love to sit in lawn chairs and jibber-jabber. We have entertainment before the movie from time to time because on a real busy night people come in at 5:30 or 6 to get a good spot and the movie doesn't start till 9 or 9:15. People come early to they already know it's gonna be sold out. We can hold 400 cars but we usually have to cut things off at 375.
Plus it's a tremendous value. You get two movies -- one brand new and one only a few weeks old -- for $8. Four dollars per movie -- that's hard to beat.
What's the best way to enjoy a drive in?
Be prepared. Bring a lawn chair so if it's a real hot night you can sit outside. Bring some mosquito repellent . Bring blankets in case it gets cold. People turn their trucks around and tilt the beds up. They get very comfortable.
What's a good movie to see at a drive-in?
Animated movies do well for us. Also the action comedies do very well -- action movies like X-Men, Wolverine, Transformers. We try to avoid the R rated movies if we can. We're more family-oriented. We've run a few movies with R ratings, but they don't work out as well.
How many people have you seen climb out of one trunk?
Ha! Three. That still goes on. We throw them out if we catch them. We check trunks a lot to make sure people aren't bringing in alcohol, and that's where we usually find them. Then there are clues. If you see two girls and one guy-- the other guy might be in the trunk -- that kind of thing.
Once, there was this regular customer who noticed that we often checked the trunks. One night she comes in and they didn't check the trunk. So she kept asking them, "Aren't you going to check my trunk? Don't you want to look in my trunk?" So finally they did. And I get this call. "You better come down here and take a look at this." She tied her boyfriend up and put tape over his mouth and stuck him in the trunk as a joke. They were having some fun with us.
The Hollywood -- and many of the other local drive-in theaters-- just opened up for weekends through the spring.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
The Hollywood Drive-In
9270 Route 66
Averill Park, NY 12018
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