If you were born after 1980, chances are very good that you've never attended a film screening at a drive-in movie theater. The concept of enjoying a movie outdoors, in the comfort of one's own vehicle, reached the zenith of its popularity in the 1950s and 1960s, with drive-in theaters once making up roughly 25% of movie houses in the U.S. Unfortunately, drive-ins began experiencing a sharp decline in the 1970s, with things only getting worse with every following decade. As of 2013, drive-ins make up a mere 1.5% of available theaters in the U.S.
Well, just when you may have thought that the drive-in theater was marching toward extinction, retro restaurant chain Johnny Rockets has stepped in to try and breathe new life into the long thought dead concept. The company has entered a partnership with drive-in theater company USA Drive-Ins, with the intent being to open up 200 brand new drive-ins by 2018. As part of the deal, many of these new theaters will be accompanied by a Johnny Rockets drive-thru restaurant, complete with the '50s aesthetic that the chain is famous for.
Customers will be able to either order and pick up their food at the Johnny Rockets counter, or have their orders delivered directly to their cars during the show. Each theatrical showing is expected to accommodate between 500 and 700 cars, or somewhere between 1,200 and 2000 moviegoers. Johnny Rockets' plan will nearly double the amount of drive-in theaters in the U.S., with only about 300 currently in operation across the country. Sadly, there are no plans to have food served by rollerskating waitresses.
Check out some concept art below:
Prices at Johnny Rockets' drive-in theaters will also be a bit less than modern patrons are used to, with the likely adult admission price to all showings being between $6 and $7. Child tickets will only run a cost of $3 per. Of course, the real profit margin here would likely come from the food viewers buy during the movie, a reality that Johnny Rockets executives aren't even pretending to hide.
As the company's chief development officer James Walker says: "The drive-through is the cake, the drive-in [theater] is the icing."
Will Johnny Rockets' new drive-in venture lead to the resurrection of a once-cherished cultural staple? We won't get the answer to that question until all the theaters get up and running, but it's a bit hard to imagine a full-blown drive-in renaissance taking place.
Still, 3D was once thought to be a dead gimmick too, and it found its way back to theatrical prominence. Who knows? Maybe in a few years we'll all be watching Star Wars Episode VIII from our cars while yelling at the couple next to us to stop making so much noise.
Source: Bloomberg Business Week