GOOCHLAND, VA – There aren’t too many drive-ins left, but some thrive. We can think specifically of Hull’s Drive In of Lexington, Virginia, where a community comes together summer nights to watch movies in their car. Hull’s almost closed, but the community rallied round, and saved the theater.
There are many cases like this around the country, even though many drive-ins have been lost to development and fashion. But just because many old drive ins have closed doesn’t mean that the format of drive in is no longer commercially viable. Not only do many drive ins do business as theaters, they have big concession revenue and often open up during the day as a swap meet.
Part of the problem has not been that folks don’t like to go to drive ins, but that many are run down, they don’t have up-to-date equipment, or the worst thing, they are in areas of town where their customers feel unsafe.
So we were so thrilled to learn that a NEW drive in would be built in Goochland County, Virginia. John & Kristina Heidel are opening the Goochland Drive In this August. Prices are reasonable; adults are $7; kids under 12 are $3. And a soft drink and popcorn combo for under $2. Sounds like happy days are here again in Richmond! What is smart for them is that they are located in a rural area that appreciates what they are trying to do, but are VERY close to growing upper middle class families that will support such a thing.
They’ve also put a local, environmental feel to the movie theater effort. (In the past, drive-ins were associated with things, not always nice.) Says Heidel on his site:
As residents of Goochland County, we appreciate the rural splendor and believe in the preservation of its character and lifestyle. We share our neighbors’ sentiments that our county is truly special and, likewise, wish to maintain its beauty and charm.
Drive-in theaters have been a part of rural America since the 1930’s. And in keeping with that tradition, we believe that a new drive-in theater would be a wonderful addition to the make-up of Goochland County. Through technological advancements over the years, the improved picture and sound of drive-in movies provide an outstanding experience — with little, if any, disturbance to the surrounding environment.
Look on their web page and check out their Facebook fan page.
Movie distributors and developers should take a look at this, and see if their concept works. Real estate is cheap now, and a drive in might be a good interim use for a stalled shopping center complex. Compared to an actual building, an outdoor theater is a very small investment, and with current environmental regulations, we bet most jurisdictions would demand that it NOT be paved, or paved with water-permeable surfaces, saving on cost.