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Oklahoma, USA: Watch an Outdoor Movie at One of the Drive-In Theaters of Oklahoma

Photos: Wesley Horton

Photo: Wesley Horton

Oklahoma got a late start as a venue for outdoor theaters, in the 40’s, whereas several of the American states were already hosting
one or more Drive-in theaters during the 1930’s. But by the end of the Second World War however, there were a couple dozen Drive-ins open showing outdoor movies in The Sooner State, and in the course of the next ten years, as if making-up for lost time, Oklahoma would have four times that number… nearly a hundred.

Since its heyday as one of the better Drive-in states, in Oklahoma as elsewhere across the land, the majority of the Drive-ins have gone dark or been demolished. Meanwhile in contrast to most other states, the rate of decline was not as steep here as elsewhere. For example, twenty years after its 1955 peak – in the mid 70’s, Oklahoma was still hosting more than 70 Drive-in theaters. At present, attrition has reached 91% – 9 remain open.

Chickasha (Grady County) Oklahoma
Chief Drive-in: 405-224-1515
Located on Rural Route 2 (south of town)

Open weekends only Fri-Sat-Sun screening double features.
Admission: $5 adults; ages 12 and under admitted in free;
Sunday nite is carload nite ($12/carload).

Outdoor Movies at Oklahoma's Drive-In TheatersGuthrie (Logan County) Oklahoma
Beacon Drive-in: 405-282-4512
Located at 2404 South Division Street

The Beacon opened-up in 1950 and has been operated continuously in central Oklahoma by the Powell family for half a century; handed down through three generations. Open 7 nites during peak season (Memorial Day – LaborDay); and on the weekends only September and October. Screening single features each nite; with traditional Drive-in speakers and a local vicinity FM radio broadcast for soundtracks.

Admission:$4 for each adult; free admission for children age 11 & under.

You’ll find them 15 minutes north of Edmond (exit 153 on I-35).

McAlester (Pittsburg County) Oklahoma
Cinema 69 Drive-in Theatre: 918-423-6969
Located on the Highway 69 bypass

During the heyday of the American Drive-in, there were several Drive-ins in McAlester and general vicinity. This was the last of them to be built (1973), and it was erected in conjunction with an indoor cinema on premises. Over the years since, the expansion of the indoor cinema to a quad, has encroached on the parking lot, cutting the capacity to where McAlester now qualifies as smallest of Oklahoma’s remaining Drive-ins. Also, owing to the existence of a local curfew, double features are not as common as they once were, and most screenings here are now single features. Audio is FM (89.3) radio.Cinema69 is the the only instance in America of an indoor and an outdoor cinema sharing the same projection room (they also share the same snackbar).

Admission: $4 for adults; children under 12 who are with an adult will be admitted here at no charge.

Outdoor Movies at Oklahoma's Drive-In TheatersOklahoma City (Oklahoma County) Oklahoma
Winchester Drive-in: 405-631-8851
Located at 6930 S. Western Avenue

This is the only Oklahoma Drive-in screening triple features on a regular basis. Their season runs from April – October; weekends only during spring and fall, and lit-up all 7 nites during peak summer season. Their gates open up at 7:30PM, a good thing, since it’s advisable to get here early on weekends.

Admission: $5 for each adult; $2 for kids aged 4 – 10 years.

You’ll find them within a ten minute drive of either the fastlane (I-40), or Memory Lane (Route 66); though we reccomend Rte.66, which just works so well with that ol’ neon cowboy presiding over the Winchester’s entrance.

Poteau (Le Flore County) Oklahoma
Tower Drive-in: 918-647-3606
Located on Highway 271 North

The same owners have a 3-screen indoor cinema in addition to the single-screen Tower, which is lit with a single feature movie each of seven nites during their peak summer season; weekends only during spring and fall; audio provided by FM radio.

Admission: $4 for adults (age12&up); $2 for kids 3-11.

Outdoor Movies at Oklahoma's Drive-In TheatersPonca City (Kay County) Oklahoma
Airline Drive-in: 580-765-4000
Located at 1800 West Highland Avenue (@ Waverly)

Situated in north-central Oklahoma a short spell from the Oklahoma/Kansas state line, the Airline Drive-in was named for its close proximity to the Ponca City Municipal Airport. Revived – after having been used for 12 years as a cattle feed lot, the Airline Drive-in
has a capacity for up to 500 cars and screens double features every nite of the week during peak summer season, and on weekends during the spring and fall. Movie audio is provided via FM radio broadcasting.

Admission: $4.50 for adults; $3 for children.

Tahlequah (Cherokee County) Oklahoma
Tahlequah Drive-in: 918-456-4015
Located on Highway 82 (North of the city)

Oklahoma’s oldest remaining Drive-in has been in operation seasonally since 1949, can accomodate just over 200 cars and alternates between screening single and double features of current releases.

Admission: $4 per adult; $2 for children.

Outdoor Movies at Oklahoma's Drive-In TheatersTulsa (Tulsa County) Oklahoma
Admiral Twin Drive-in: 918-835-5181
Two screens; located at 7355 E. Easton (north of I-244)

Oklahoma’s largest Drive-in is a twin screen venue with a capacity for more than a thousand cars, which opened originally as a single
screen in 1951 called The Modernaire. A second picture show and additional parking was added by new owners who had renamed it
The Admiral. Their West screen has traditional speakers as well as a local vicinity radio broadcast for the movies’ soundtrack, while
their East screen has radio sound only; and they are screening double features East and West.

Admission: $5.50 adults; free admission for kids under 11 years of age.

Weatherford (Custer County) Oklahoma
66 Twin Drive-in: 580-774-2428
Located on Route 66

Revived by the same owners who have Weatherford’s Showest-3 indoor cinema, the 66 Twin Drive-in is one of Oklahoma’s two recent revivals, and the only one of the two that remains in operation for Season 2K (the other, Sapulpa’s Teepee closed again after ’99). Lit-up 7 nites in peak season, they’re screening double features on each of their twin “East” and “West” screens.

Admission: $4.75 for each adult; $3 for students & seniors; and free admission for for children 5 years of age & under.

Source: http://www.driveinmovie.com/OK.htm.


Big Island Boat-In Movie Makes a Splash With an Inflatable Movie Screen

Big Island Boat-In Movie on Lake Minnetonka, MinnesotaEarlier this year, outdoor movies made a big splash on Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota. Marine Max hosted the “boat-in” movie near Big Island. Over 200 boats were in attendance at the outdoor movie event, each filled with friends and family.

Big Island is a popular partying hangout for Lake Minnetonka, but since it is a private island, an outdoor movie event could not take place on the island itself. Therefore, a novel idea was hatched: the screen would be inflated on the water itself, and people would attend in their boats as a variation on the old-school drive-in movie concept. A large barge was rented upon which the inflatable movie screen was placed, with a tall crane holding it up. No tethers or ropes were needed. As there was no good way to place speakers, the audio was transmitted to the boats through FM transmitters.

“Ghostbusters” was the movie of choice, prefaced by commercials of the many sponsors of the event. It proved to be a great success, and plans for more boat-in movies in later months are in the works.

Click here to see a video of the outdoor movie event: Big Island Boat-In Movie


Dallas, Texas: Outdoor Movies Could Make A Big Difference in Small Communities

Outdoor Movies Could Make a Big Difference in Dallas, TexasWhat should Dallas do to spur sustainable development? Should we focus on big, iconic projects or smaller-scale initiatives, like pocket parks with outdoor movies? Former Mayor Ron Kirk surely spoke for many when he said Dallas has to do both. But how realistic is that in an era of diminished financial resources? Does the future of Dallas look more like vast Victory Park or like the homey Bishop Arts District? (A generational divide on that question emerged in one seminar.)

Personally, I believe in what you might call the preferential option for pocket parks. I asked the seminar at one point why, on Election Night, the Bishop Arts District was the place to be, but Victory Park was not? Someone said, “Because it’s real.” Yes! Exactly!

More to the point, ordinary people can go to the Bishop Arts District, which lacks a gathering space or a plaza, and walk around, find something to eat, and so forth. If you go to Victory Park, it’s all high-priced grub, and off-putting bigness. I was talking about this with an East Dallas friend yesterday, who said that he gets more excited by things like that new strip of restaurants on Henderson Street than about big new things that open downtown. I know exactly what he means. In that strip, the Fish City Grill has become kind of a neighborhood hangout for families with kids. Families can afford to eat there, and the management makes a point of getting to know your name and face, and being nice to neighborhood people. It really feels like someplace.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that we’re building an Arts district. But it’s not for families like us, for the most part. It’s too expensive. A young man said that what this city needs is to do things like spend money buying outdoor movie projectors, and have movie night in city parks, inviting folks to bring picnic dinners and blankets, and watch a movie together. When I lived in Brooklyn, NY, we had that, and it was a blast! Small, simple things that are accessible to all, or to most. That’s what builds a sense of place, and loyalty to that place.

–from “Should Dallas Grow Big or Small?” by Rod Dreher
Read full article at: http://dallasmorningviewsblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2008/11/should-dallas-g.html


Durham, North Carolina: Obama's Election Victory Projected on an Inflatable Screen

Obama's Election Victory Projected on an Inflatable ScreenThe following is an excerpt from “Obama”, by Olivia Hayes. Read it here: http://linguisticallysmitten.blogspot.com/2008/11/obama.html

On election night, we all piled into the center of downtown Durham. It was rainy and muddy, so we hid out in The Pinhook for a while, drinking beer out of plastic cups and checking our Blackberries and iPhones for updates. Anna managed to find an Obama volunteer from San Francisco who we chattered with the whole evening, pondering the possibility of North Carolina going blue. And at a certain point, the crowd outside got louder, watching a live feed on a giant inflatable screen.

We moved outside, boots sinking into the municipal mud just in time to see CNN declare that the McCain campaign “didn’t see a path to victory.” By the time they announced Obama the winner, we were arm and arm under the misting rain, dancing, hugging, laughing, cheering…Tears were shed, strangers were hugged, and the country had begun stitching up the wounds, inking tentative treaties with hand shakes.

I watched Obama’s speech wrapped in the arms of one of my best friends, a tear slipping down my cheek when he repeated his famous mantra. It broke the fever of discontent and cynicism incubated in the ranks of my generation for the past eight years. And that night was the first night that we could say, without rancor, without irony, that we were proud to be Americans.


Waterbury, Vermont: Ben & Jerry's Free Outdoor Movie Festival

Ben & Jerry's Outdoor Movie Festival in Waterbury, VermontIf you haven’t seen the posters around town, here’s the line-up for the remaining films of the Ben & Jerry’s Free outdoor Movie Festival. The films are shown on the top level of the parking garage at City Center (the building Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop is located in near State & Main) and start around dusk which would be around 8:30 these days. If the weather is good, I might try taking my son to one of them. There’s something about watching a movie under the stars that makes even crappy movies entertaining.

By the way, the same movies are run at the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury on the Saturday following the Montpelier showing. The benefit of the Waterbury showing is that it’s not a school night. The downside is that the factory is the #1 tourist attraction in the state and it probably gets mobbed with annoying tourists.

July 19 | Antz
July 26 | Catch Me If You Can
August 2 | Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone
August 9 | The Little Rascals
August 16 | Dr. Seuss’ A Cat in the Hat
August 27 | City Slickers

Original Blog Post: http://false45th.blogspot.com/2007/07/ben-jerrys-free-outdoor-movie-festival.html


Winter Park, Florida: Outdoor Movie About the Israli-Palestinian Conflict on an Inflatable Screen at Rollins College

Outdoor Movies on an Inflatable Screen at Rollins College, Winter Park, FloridaOn the night before Election Day, a Middle Eastern Multicultural Night focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was held on Mills Lawn. Though not as high-profile as the Uncle Sam’s After-Poll Party that occurred there the following night, the outdoor movie event did see a decent student and faculty turnout. Hillel and the Society for a Just Peace in Palestine (SJP) co-sponsored the night, which featured food, speakers, free “coexist” bumper stickers and a film shown on an inflatable screen that exuded a message of hope for the entire region.

Although students trickled onto the lawn slowly near the beginning, the number of attendees eventually built up to about forty individuals at the height of the night. The event began with the clubs’ presidents welcoming their guests and introducing the two speakers, Rabbi Jonathan Siger and Brother Yassine Benzinane, both of whom had spoken at a similar event last year showing the film “Promises.” Rabbi Siger, executive director of the Central Florida Hillel, focused on the history of the Jewish people’s settlement in the land of Israel. Brother Yassine, owner of the Ali Baba Bookstore and a member of the Orlando branch of the Council on American- Islamic Relations, emphasized the need for the audience to think about possible solutions, given the claims that each side has to the land.

While technical difficulties following the speeches were being dealt with, the audience was able to enjoy a spread of Middle Eastern dishes including pita, hummus, tabouleh, falafel and shawarma.

The film “Encounter Point” was an amazing portrayal of the independent grassroots movements for peace that are occurring within and between Palestine and Israel. It focused on the stories of a few individuals and showed how they had turned grief and hardship from the conflict into the drive to make peace.

In one portrayal, two men, one Israeli and one Palestinian, lost their daughters in attacks from the other side. Both joined a group for bereaved families where they now talk to each other, bond and work towards mutual understanding. Another person, Ali, had lost his brother, been shot in the leg and sent to prison, enough to make him a hero in Palestine. However, instead of perpetuating hate, he is now working tirelessly to meet with both Israelis and Palestinians in order to spread the message of peace and dialogue.

When asked about her impressions, Susie Robertshaw said that she “…liked seeing those two young men, the Palestinian and the Israeli, who had changed their stances despite their upbringings and the violence that had befallen them….”

Having lived in Southern Africa (Botswana) during the Apartheid regime in the Republic, Susie also said that she appreciated one woman’s comments from the film “about how certain attitudes of the Israeli settlers are just like those in Apartheid S. Africa.”

“I also liked hearing from those two speakers again,” she said, “and of course the food and company were just great. Breaking bread together helps in all cases.”


Waco, Texas: International Outdoor Movies on an Inflatable Screen at Baylor University

Outdoor Movies on an Inflatable Screen at Baylor UniversityNine films. Six countries. Three nights of a local approach to international film and the cultures that the films represent – all made possible by students. Baylor Film and Digital Media and the Film and Global Culture Engaged Learning Group are holding the first Baylor International Film Festival, which begins 7 p.m. tonight in Bennett Auditorium. The festival continues into the weekend and ends 7 p.m. Sunday and is free of charge. The film screenings will be in Bennett Auditorium, Fountain Mall and Castellaw Communications Center. The two Fountain Mall outdoor movie screenings, or “Silver Screenings,” will be shown on a 20-foot inflatable screen and popcorn will be provided to all who attend.

The idea of holding a film festival stemmed from the ELG last semester after the ELG attended a school-funded trip to the American Film Institute Dallas International Film Festival.

“And during the summer, people (from the ELG) threw together some stuff and said, ‘Okay, we’re going to do this.’ And it all started from there,” said Houston sophomore Jacob Voncannon, who is the in charge of organizing the festival.

Engaged Learning Groups are groups of selected freshmen that attend 1-hour discussion seminars for 3 semesters, focusing on a certain topic. The Film and Global Culture ELG is focused on cinema and uses a variety of approaches to understanding film, according to the ELG Web site.

Communication studies professor Christopher Hansen is the director of the Film and Global Culture ELG and film scholar. Hansen said that he, Dr. Jim Kendrick and Dr. Xin Wang created the ELG as a way to bring freshmen into groups that focus on film from different angles. The International Film Festival is another way that the ELG can learn from and understand film – by organizing and distributing films.

“It’s something the entire campus can partake in and enjoy,” said New Orleans sophomore Braden Yandel. Yandel is in charge of planning for the festival.

Even if students don’t have knowledge about international film, they can enjoy the festival, Voncannon said.

“The different movies bring different world perspectives but still there a lot of connections — in film — to America,” he said.

The film screenings will be in Bennett Auditorium, Fountain Mall and Castellaw Communications Center.

The two Fountain Mall screenings, or “Silver Screenings,” will be shown on a 20-foot inflatable screen and popcorn will be provided to all who attend.

There will also be speakers prior to the screening of a number of the films, whose role is to explain the culture, language and history of the country the movie is from, to the audience.

“We’re essentially going to foreign language (departments) or foreign experts,” said Hansen. “Hopefully we will have a good number of people introduce (the movies) that can give a good contextual basis for a film,” Hansen said.

The speakers are from various language and cultural backgrounds.

“One of the biggest things that we’ve learned through this class is that it does help to have an understanding of the cultures where these films have come from,” said Yandel. “A lot of the messages in these films are universal and it’s going to be stuff that everybody seeing the films are going to love.”

The films were selected by the Film and Global Culture ELG. Each group submitted film suggestions and after discussions, the committee for the festival chose which films would be screened in the festival.

“It’s to provide a cultural benefit for the campus from the ELG program,” Hansen explained.

The goal of the festival is to expose students to international film and for students to be both entertained and informed, Hansen said.

“Ultimately, we all like a good film,” he said.


From Los Angeles, California, to Lindon, Utah: Outdoor Movie Events and Open Air Cinema is a Growing Industry

Outdoor Movies Presented by Open Air CinemaThe following is an article published today in the LA Times which describes the growing trend of outdoor cinema. Outdoor movies are becoming more and more popular, and the demand for outdoor cinema products is growing rapidly. Open Air Cinema highly recommends this article as a resource on the current outdoor cinema industry for anyone who is interested in outdoor movies. Several outdoor movie companies nationwide are mentioned, as well as Open Air Cinema, one of the founders of the outdoor cinema products in the U.S. In this article you will find that outdoor movie events may not be the easiest endeavor, but it is definitely worth it.

Screening Films Outdoors Is No Day In the Park- LA Times

by Tiffany Hsu

The lawn at the Grove shopping center looked like a slumber party one recent evening, as 75 people sprawled in sleeping bags and blankets on the grass to watch the 1984 film “Ghostbusters” on an inflatable screen. “It’s nice to sit out and hang out, where there aren’t as many restrictions as in a theater,” said Jennifer Gerard, an advertising account executive. “It feels more like an event. Otherwise, I’d be sitting at home watching TV.” That kind of four-star review is boosting a small but growing industry that provides outdoor movie screenings. Typically, they are hired by cities, community groups or other organizations that offer the show free of charge.

Last month’s screening of “Ghostbusters” was staged by Open Air Productions, an Atwater Village company that has been in the business just under a year. It was hired by the Grove’s management company, which puts on a variety of public events as part of its efforts to attract shoppers.

Open Air owner Dana Schwartz said she expected to screen 100 movies this year, at venues including a courthouse garden in Santa Barbara and an amphitheater at San Diego State University.

She has clients lined up through 2009 and employs a full-time event planner and 10 on-staff tech aides who perform such duties as audio-visual setup and customer service. Her company also helps secure the rights to screen films.

Schwartz estimates that the company will pull in just under $200,000 this year. That’s “not bad” for a small open-air screening business, considering the expenses associated with constant equipment upgrades, she said.

“It’s trying times for everyone, and there are other companies out there doing similar things, but everybody was pretty busy this summer,” she said.

The number of outdoor screeners is difficult to track because no official association exists to do so, but most industry insiders agree that dozens of companies exist and that their numbers are growing.

Cities are among the most reliable customers. La Quinta’s community services department sponsored a free summer series near City Hall featuring films such as “Ratatouille” and “Charlotte’s Web” on a 20-foot screen. In July and August, audiences in San Jose saw films including “American Graffiti” and “The Shining” in San Pedro Square downtown.

Outdoor showings have recently been set up against such backdrops as the Brooklyn Bridge and the Sydney Opera House in Australia.

Demand for outdoor screens is snowballing, said Stuart Farmer, president of Open Air Cinema. The Lindon, Utah, company helps clients plan outdoor screenings and also sells inflatable screens, 80% of which go to large organizations or individual customers who want private backyard theaters.

But it pulls in at least $1 million a year from businesses that focus on outdoor films, Farmer said.

Boulder Outdoor Cinema in Boulder, Colo., launched with eight shows in 1995, when open-air screenings were more popular in Europe and in small towns with no theaters. This year, owner Dave Riepe and manager Jeanine Fritz screened nearly 20 films. The crowd quoted choice lines aloud during a screening of “The Big Lebowski” and viewers came in costume for “The Princess Bride.”

“Watching a movie outside on a big screen in your little camping chair is just more fun,” Fritz said. “It’s more raucous. The sense of community is greater than if you roll into a multiplex and don’t talk to your neighbors at all.”

Schwartz of Open Air Productions had been an event planner for almost 10 years and had seen a growing demand to incorporate movies into outdoor events.

When Open Air Cinema approached her to head its California outdoor screenings, she jumped at the chance. The Utah company later decided to focus mostly on selling screens and other equipment, and this year Schwartz bought out its California screening operations and dubbed her company Open Air Productions.

The learning curve can be steep for newcomers, she said.

Successful business owners are usually film buffs with customer service acumen, she said. They must be able to handle power generators, cables, ambient lighting and a harrowing schedule that can involve as many as three shows a night.

Other issues include setting up portable restrooms, live-event insurance and arranging parking spaces for patrons. Fritz lines up city permits and checks for compliance with noise and environmental ordinances while drumming up sponsorships. She also books bands, plans concessions and organizes the roughly six employees who work at each event.

“You need a broad base of knowledge,” Schwartz said. “I even watch my carbon footprint because I know someone will ask about it.”

Revenue can be quickly sucked away, she said.

Partly because of high expenses, several groups well-known in the open-air cinema community say they operate as nonprofits, in the model of film festivals such as Sundance.

Mark Elijah Rosenberg, who founded Rooftop Films atop his New York apartment building in 1997 and is seeking nonprofit status, said another consideration was that venue, equipment, advertising, staffing and film-rights costs can and often do add up to more than ticket revenue. Many companies operate at a constant loss.

“Until you have a proven track record of getting big crowds, sponsors won’t be involved,” said Rosenberg, whose organization uses a chunk of its revenue to support independent filmmakers. “And unless you have a committed, long-term and stable plan, foundation and government support is unlikely. So it’s not easy, under any model.”

Even choosing films can be costly. After licensing costs soared this year, Fritz now estimates that each film costs her about $300 to show.

Some licensing and rental companies, such as Criterion Pictures USA in Morton Grove, Ill., vary rates depending on what title is being played and audience size, and also require clients to pay transportation and handling costs for the film.

Others collect a percentage of the box office but offer a flat rate for donation-based events. So some outdoor screening groups try to save money by requesting rather than requiring an entrance fee.

Tom Boss, director of Marin, Calif.-based Film Night in the Park, spends $1,500 to $3,000 producing each event. Lately, competition has siphoned away some of his audience, but 20 screenings spread over several Bay Area cities still drew more than 5,000 viewers, he said.

Still, organizing screenings is a “labor of love,” said Boss, whose staff sometimes stays on-site nearly 12 hours, from setting up at 2 p.m. and ending when the equipment is dismantled.

The pressures can cause start-up outdoor film companies to fold quickly, he said.

“People think it’s easy, and if you’ve just got a wall and are projecting for 20 people, it is,” Boss said. “But when you’re trying to do it for a big group, it’s really labor-intensive and the equipment costs a lot. These companies get burnt out on the amount of effort it takes.”

But Schwartz said production hiccups should fade as entrepreneurs get used to the demands of the business.

“These screenings aren’t a fad like chocolate fountains were,” Schwartz said. “It’s in the vernacular now, and suddenly it’s the hip thing to do.”

Original LA Times Article: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-screenings10-2008nov10,0,2162734.story?page=1