Archive | Drive-in Movie Theaters

In Memory of ‘Outdoor Movie Pioneer’ Anthony Rudman

Anthony Rudman Sr.

Tony Rudman, founder of Utah’s Westates Theatres chain, has died. He was 84.

The cinema chain was once the largest in the West and continues to operate more than 70 screens in four states.

Rudman died Aug. 6, six days short of his 85th birthday, after suffering a fall outside his home, said his son, T.J. Rudman.

“He’s a self-made man, and extremely successful, and he worked very, very hard,” the younger Rudman said of his father.

Rudman was born Aug. 12, 1925, in Scofield, Utah. He started working at age 12, herding sheep. He made enough money to pay for his own tuition at Wasatch Academy when he was 15.

At 17, he enlisted with four other Carbon County boys in the United States Marine Corps. They served in the Pacific in World War II, in the first wave of troops in Tarawa and Saipan. Rudman was wounded, taking shell fragments in his legs that remained for the rest of his life. He was the only one of that Carbon County group to survive the war.

Rudman got into the movie business in the 1950s as a film runner, getting paid $25 a week. He then worked as a film buyer for RKO Pictures and later started his own film buying and booking service. In 1958, he bought his first theater, the Davis Drive-In in Layton.

Among the theaters Rudman had a hand in opening were the Water Gardens Cinema in Pleasant Grove, the Tooele Cinema 6 in Tooele and the now-defunct Trolley Theatres and Trolley Corners multiplexes near downtown Salt Lake City.

The Westates chain now operates the Holladay Cinema 6 in Salt Lake City, the Tooele theater, three multiplexes in Logan, two in Cedar City and five in St. George — as well as theaters in Page, Ariz., Elko and Mesquite, Nev., and Montpelier, Idaho.

Rudman was a hands-on business owner. “He knew every nail, he knew every projector, he knew every sound system,” his son said. “He never missed a paycheck, never missed paying one of his employees.”

Rudman married Shirley Ernstsen in 1946, and they had two children: Shonnie Kay and Tony Jay. Shirley died in 1964.

Besides his children, Rudman is survived by eight grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren, his longtime companion Leone Clyde, and his only sibling, his brother Joseph Rudman.

A memorial service is set for 9 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 12, what would have been his 85th birthday, at the Holladay Cinema 6, 1945 E. Murray-Holladay Road (4795 South), Salt Lake City. A graveside service is scheduled for noon at Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park, 3401 S. Highland Drive, Salt Lake City.


Salt Lake City, Utah: Open Air Cinema hosts Outdoor Movie at NRPA Convention

This past Wednesday, Open Air Cinema and Swank Motion Pictures hosted a free screening of Transformers 2 at the National Parks and Recreation Association (NRPA) national congress in Salt Lake City, Utah.  The screening was a blast, and everyone really enjoyed watching the movie on the huge 30′ screen. It was really great because everyone was able to see the screening on a brand-new system.  The sound was amazing, and the projection was stunning.  National Parks and Recreation administrators from all over the place came to see the screening: Alabama, Texas, Utah, California, New York, Colorado, Arizona, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and many other places.  Here is an excerpt of a review from io9:

“Critical consensus on Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is overwhelmingly negative. But the critics are wrong. Micheal Bay used a squillion dollars and a hundred supercomputers’ worth of CG for a brilliant art movie about the illusory nature of plot.

Oh, and I would warn you that there’ll be spoilers in this review — except that, really, since I still have no idea what actually happened in this movie, I’m not sure how much I can spoil it.

Since the days of Un Chien Andalou and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari filmmakers have reached beyond meaning. But with this summer’s biggest, loudest movie, Michael Bay takes us all the way inside Caligari’s cabinet. And once you enter, you can never emerge again. I saw this movie two days ago, and I’m still living inside it. Things are exploding wherever I look, household appliances are trying to kill me, and bizarre racial stereotypes are shouting at me.

Transformers: ROTF has mostly gotten pretty hideous reviews, but that’s because people don’t understand that this isn’t a movie, in the conventional sense. It’s an assault on the senses, a barrage of crazy imagery. Imagine that you went back in time to the late 1960s and found Terry Gilliam, fresh from doing his weird low-fi collage/animations for Monty Python. You proceeded to inject Gilliam with so many steroids his penis shrank to the size of a hair follicle, and you smushed a dozen tabs of LSD under his tongue. And then you gave him the GDP of a few sub-Saharan countries. Gilliam might have made a movie not unlike this one.”



Centreville, Virginia: Fairfax County's Starlight Cinema Presents Outdoor Movies at the Drive-In

Outdoor Movies at the Drive-In at Centreville, VirginiaFairfax County is offering an opportunity to watch family-friendly outdoor movies like you used to: *gasp!* from inside your car. “Starlight Cinema” may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for some of you younger folks so don’t miss out. Each Saturday night this month the parking lot of the Trinity Office Building in Centreville is transformed into a drive-in movie theater, screening films such as Kung Fu Panda and Hotel for Dogs. This Saturday (Aug. 22) you can see The Tale of Despereaux, about a young mouse (voice of Matthew Broderick) with comically oversize ears on a quest to earn the affections of a beautiful princess. Drive-in early to get a good parking spot. Gates open at 6pm and the movie will begin at dark. Oh, and did we mention this outdoor cinema event is FREE? There’s no good reason not to go. Pack up the family for a fun night out and unique opportunity to see a movie under the stars.


Fond du Lac, Wisconsin: Fond du Lac Parks and Recreation Hosts Drive-In Outdoor Movie Night

Drive-In Outdoor Movies in Fond du Lac, WisconsinLast Thursday, the Fond du Lac Parks and Recreation department had a “Back to School” welcoming celebration. In the parking lot of the Fond du Lac high school, they hosted an old-fashioned drive-in, this time with a portable inflatable movie screen. Event organizers really wanted to create a unique and nostalgic outdoor cinema experience that the whole family could enjoy to bring in the new school year. They even set up a concessions stand with hot dogs, popcorn, nachos, candy, slushies and sodas. The movie shown was the blockbuster hit Hotel for Dogs. The turnout was very good for this family-friendly event, and event organizers hope that students are excited for the new school year. We know the parents are.


Los Angeles, California: Classic Horror Films Screened at the Hollywood Drive-In Movie Theater

Outdoor Movies at the Hollywood Drive-InThink the drive-in is dead? Not in Hollywood! Though it may not be a permanent fixture, Hollywood MobMov in conjunction with the Steve Allen Theater created an impromptu drive-in movie theater earlier this summer. Each Friday night the parking lot of the theater would be devoted to the outdoor cinema, with films projected onto the theater wall. Films screened were not your typical family-friendly fare, as one of their most popular nights was the Masters of Horror Series. It was a double feature night with Suspiria, a well-loved 1977 Italian film by Dario Argento, considered a classic in the horror genre, and Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise, a delightful 1974 “horror-thriller-comedy musical” starring Paul Williams. Actress Jessica Harper starred in both films and made a live appearance for a Q&A during the intermission.

And unlike many guerrilla drive-in theaters today, this was an actual drive-in: cars lined up and tuned their radio to a specific station to hear the audio. On that night of horror classics, the weather wasn’t perfect, but with everyone warm and snuggled up in their cars it didn’t matter. There should definitely be some more outdoor movies coming up in the near future, so sign up on the mailing list for Hollywood MobMov for notifications. This is guerrilla cinema unlike any other, and these days you don’t get many chances to see cult classics in the outdoors. Don’t miss your opportunity to see these awesome outdoor movies!


Memphis, Tennessee: Summer Drive-In Has an Outdoor Movie History in Memphis, Tennesse

Photo Credit: Brad Luttrell/The Commercial Appeal

Photo Credit: Brad Luttrell/The Commercial Appeal

Light from the screens dances off the roofs of the scattered cars and sound echoes from auto stereo speakers. Summer Drive-In in Memphis, Tennessee is one of the last remaining drive-in movie theaters in the South. But where most of these outdoor movie theaters have dwindled away, Summer Drive-In continues to be one of the more beloved Memphis landmarks, and carries with it a colorful history of outdoor cinema.

James Lloyd has been a Malco Theaters (who owns Summer Drive-In) employee for 43 years, and has a passion for outdoor film.

“I been around the theater business practically all my life,” said Lloyd, who was a 14-year-old Arkansas farm boy when he made his first money at the movies by pushing a popcorn cart between the rows of cars at the old Starvue Drive-In in Blytheville (Memphis Commercial Appeal).

Lloyd was there when the Summer Drive-In first opened, on Sept. 1, 1966. The outdoor movie theater was boasted to be one of the most modern theaters of its time. Back then, drive-ins were huge; it was a part of Americana. They would screen B-movies or second-run films, but people continued to come in droves. They were there for the movie, yes, but there was something undeniably attractive about watching a movie under the stars. Something magical, and unique. Of course, the semi-private romance of the cars drew many a young couple to open air cinemas as well.

Lloyd actually lives at the Summer Drive-In, in a small apartment build alongside the projection room. When drive-ins where in their heyday, it was common to build living quarters alongside the screens, as theater managers usually worked long hours. In those days, outdoor movie theaters were built in huge fields with very little nearby in the way of buildings or lights, and the stars created a sparking canopy over the drive-in.
As we all know, most of the drive-ins that were once so popular have now disappeared. Though there has been some decline in popular interest, a large reason behind the closings was due to rising real estate values. Much of that land has now been turned into malls, housing developments, and swap meets.

For those drive-ins still remaining, changes have been made, but many are for the better. Most now play first-run blockbusters instead of the B-movies they used to play. Today, Lloyd can watch Johnny Depp in “Public Enemies” from one of his apartment windows, and Harry Potter from another. Movie-goers have their choice of popular films with three different outdoor movie screens, and nights with double or even triple-features.
On weekends the Summer Drive-In draws 1,600 cars who utilize FM radios for audio to the films, instead of the old-fashioned speakers that hang on car windows.

Across the hallway from the doorway to Lloyd’s apartment is the Summer projection room. Using incredibly bright light bulbs of 6,000 to 7,000 watts each, the projectors “throw” the image hundreds of feet through the air; Screen 3, the most distant (and largest, at 118-by-54 feet), is 730 feet from the booth.

The drive-in originally opened 365 days a year, but is now only open during the summer, and then Fridays and Saturdays the rest of the year. Admission is $7 a person, but kids under 10 are free, so the Summer Drive-In is a popular hot spot for family-friendly entertainment. You see less passionate teenagers and more carloads of kids.

Some outdoor movie attendees are long-time fans. There are people who used to come to the drive-in as teenagers, and now they’re bringing their kids. Others are newer movie-goers. Lloyd’s grandchildren love visiting their Grandpa; Lloyd piles them in his old Buick and they drive a few hundred feet to park in front of a giant screen and watch a movie together.

Clint Pratt, 38, and his daughters, Taylor, 11, and Shea, 8, were making their first trip to the drive-in since the Pratts moved here from Orlando 11 years ago.

“I thought it was closed down,” he said, until he learned differently from a friend. “I think it’s really cool,” said Taylor, sitting on the open tailgate of the family’s Chevrolet S-10 Blazer, parked so the rear of the vehicle faced the screen.

“It’s paying its way,” Lloyd said of the Summer. He said the drive-in is here to stay, despite some efforts by Malco in recent years to sell the land.


Hamptons, New York: From the Drive-In to the Art Gallery, See Outdoor Films in the Hamptons, New York

Outdoor Movies in the Hamptons, New YorkWhat is it about outdoor movies that make them so alluring? Despite massive multi-plex theaters putting drive-ins out of business, people still feel drawn to outdoor venues for movie-watching. Movie theaters provide a completely enclosed, climate-controlled environment, with the audio reverberating off the walls, and darkness cocooning the glowing screen. With stadium seating, digital projection, and other technological luxuries theater owners have worked tirelessly to create the ultimate movie-going experience. Yet people continually return to parks and parking lots to watch outdoor movies among the stars and mosquitoes.

Where the theater isolates the viewer to an almost intimate movie-watching experience, outdoor movies thrust the audience into a community experience. Ambient light from streetlights and the moon draws the film and audience into a symbiotic environment. A train passing in the distance becomes part of the background, and the audience around you becomes part of the story.

As the warm summertime weather lingers, outdoor movies continue to pop up under the moonlight. The Hamptons area in New York has a variety of outdoor cinema screenings to offer, from kids movies in the park to evocative art gallery installations.

Outdoor Movies for Family Fun

Outdoor Movies in the Hamptons, New YorkFor free family fun, Southampton Town screens movies in the park each Monday night, at 9pm. The films are always family-fare, for a very cheap night out that’s fun for parents and kids alike.

This Monday you can see “Bedtime Stories” on the Great Lawn in Westhampton Beach. If that is a great location for you, you can look forward to more outdoor films on Aug. 3 and Aug. 17.

The Quogue Wildlife Refuge continues its family film series, “Movies Under the Stars,” on two Wednesdays, August 12 and 19. Admission is $4 per person. For information, visit

Modern-Day Drive-In Movies

Though most drive-in the theaters are now dusty relics of the past, many people look upon those old theaters with a fondness. Therefore, there are a few outdoor cinema events taking place around the Hamptons that aim to bring us back to an older time. The Southampton Chamber of Commerce will be holding outdoor cinema screenings to recreate the drive-in experience. At the Elks Grounds in Southampton, there will be room for cars to park and view the film from there, or movie-goers can spread out blankets and chairs to watch the movie outside their cars. The proceeds from the movies will go towards the Chamber’s building expansion fund. On July 23 you can see “Bee Movie”, and “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” will screen on July 28. If you want to watch from your car like the old drive-in days, it’ll cost a whopping $40, and $25 to park away from the screen and watch the movie from a blanket or beach chair –but remember, this is all going towards a good cause! People will start arriving around 7pm and the movie starts at dark. For reservations and more information, visit

Drive-In Movies in the Hamptons, New YorkAnother flashback to the drive in will be presenting the Star Wars original trilogy in 3 separate installments. The first installment, “Star Wars: Episode 4—A New Hope” was shown last night at Maidstone Park in East Hampton. Screenings continue on August 20 (“The Empire Strikes Back”) and September 11 (“Return of the Jedi”). Admission is $10 for adults and $5 per child. Most of the younger generation never got to see these awesome films on the big screen, so this is an outdoor film opportunity you won’t want to miss. Visit for more information.

Along the same retro-nostalgic lines, classic 80’s movies will be shown at the outdoor amphitheater at the Children’s Museum of the East End (CMEE) in Bridgehampton. The outdoor movies are presented by East Hampton Rotary and Hamptons Drive-In. On July 30 they will screen “Back to the Future”, and August 13 is “Ghostbusters”. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 per child. Movies begin at 8:30 p.m. Visit for more information about these present-day drive-in movie screenings.

If that wasn’t enough 80’s films for you, you can also see “Goonies” on August 11 at “Films on the Lawn”, the outdoor movie series held at The Jewish Center of the Hamptons in East Hampton. This outdoor film will begin at 8pm. Admission is $7 for adults and a $5 suggested donation per child and benefits Camp Karole. Visit for more info.

Outdoor Films as Art Installations

Outdoor Films in the Hamptons, New YorkVarious art galleries and other art venues are including outdoor movies with, or as a part of, their current installations. For example, you can see classic outdoor films at the Silas Marder Gallery in Bridgehampton. They are free each Friday. The films are shown on a beautiful grassy field, spotted with hay bales. The field has a slight slope which is perfect to allow everyone a good view of the screen. Silas Marder has chosen to show classic films in order to give them a proper venue. Classic films are rarely seen anymore, though they are some of the best films ever made.

The 10-week series of classic films is tied together with the theme “Dissent”. Tonight’s film is “Dr. Strangelove”; the following weeks will screen “Some Like it Hot”, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, and “The French Connection”. More information about the gallery and the beautiful outdoor film venue can be found at

Also at the Silas Marder Gallery, outdoor films are being utilized in their current art show. A short, animated film depicts a whale swimming through blue waters. “Giganticism”, as it has been named, is screened in the gallery barn. And at the exhibition opening last week they screened a documentary onto the side of a box truck. It was the 1977 documentary film, “The Powers of Ten,” and was very popular with visitors to the gallery. Prior exhibitions have included looping video installed in a hedgerow (“Beasties” by Barry Anderson) and large-scale film or image projections onto the outer walls of the towering barn that contains the gallery. Silas Marder enjoys using film as an art form, and presenting it in unique and unexpected ways, such as the outdoor screenings on various buildings or surfaces.

Another intriguing art gallery incorporating outdoor films is Gallery BelAge in Westhampton. The gallery focuses on work by untrained or amateur artists, providing a venue for art that may not fit into conventional arenas. As a part of this theme, the gallery hosts an outdoor film series called “Outsider Art” in their front courtyard. The indie films are easily visible from Main Street, and draws passerbys to the gallery. Similarly, it draws attention these films which are too obscure to be seen elsewhere. July 25 will screen a short film on East Moriches artist Peter Marbury (1939-2009) made by his son, Sebastian as well as a full-length film, “In the Realms of the Unreal—The Mystery of Henry Darger.” On August 29 you can see “Jean Michel Basquiat: Downtown 81,” a fictitious day-in-the-life of Basquiat that taps into the raw creative energy of the 1970s. Visit for more info.

The Hamptons certainly seems to be inundated with outdoor movies during this summer season, but don’t let them pass you by. I love seeing art galleries displaying outdoor films in such an unusual and interesting way, and with free movies in the park and retro drive-in movies, there’s something for everyone.


Cranbrook, British Columbia: Drive-In Movie and Car Show in Cranbrook, Canada

Photo Credit: Mopars in the Mountains

Photo Credit: Mopars in the Mountains

This Saturday a car show and outdoor movie will be held in Cranbrook, British Columbia. It’s going to be a whole flashback to the drive-in days with classic cars and the appropriately-paired outdoor cinema screening of American Graffiti. The car show and outdoor movie on an inflatable screen is presented by Southern Mopar Owners Group (SMOG). The “Mopars in the Mountains” car show has occurred in the past but they are trying to make it even bigger and better than past years.

“Moir Park is a gorgeous spot for a car show,” said Mike Stanko, one of the organizers. “We offer a nice show on a large grassy field with a beautiful view of the mountains. The view is absolutely breathtaking.” (BC Local News).

Here is all the info you need to know:

If you want to show your own classic car, you’ll need to register on Friday at the Lordco parking lot.

From 11am to 4pm on Saturday the car show will take place along with a swap meet.

Afterword, there will be an awards show and $10 dinner.

The drive-in movie begins at 9pm and costs $5 per person, but kids get in free.

You can watch the movie from your car drive-in style, or sit on the grass or bleachers in front of the inflatable screen.

It should be a pretty cool event so be sure to come out, even if you don’t have a spiffy car to show off. American Graffiti is a classic car show film and a good choice for their outdoor movie presentation. From what I understand, the Mopars in the Mountains Car Show has been pretty popular in past years so be sure to get there early to stake out a good spot for the drive in movie.

For updated information, visit