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May 2013: Nearly all pages updated, and links added to
Waiting on copyright approval to add some Empire Drive-In photos.

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The site is operated by the owner of the Transit Drive-In in Lockport, NY.

Background Information

    I've been interested in drive-ins ever since my parents brought me to my first drive-in movie when I was 5 years old. We went to Lakeshore every summer, until 1993 when the theater was demolished. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, drive-ins began to close down rapidly. The biggest reason for this was that since most drive-ins only had one screen, they couldn't play many movies at the same time, or show one particular movie for an extended period of time, so the movie companies denied the drive-ins first run films. This forced drive-ins to begin playing X rated films and second run old movies that were already out on video in most cases. Also, the institution of daylight savings time forced drive-ins to play movies an hour later than usual, and thus had to let out an hour later. This made many people decide not to go because the movie would let out too late. Larger indoor "muliplex" theaters began opening in the early-mid 1970s which further accelerated the closure of many drive-ins. More theaters closed in the north than anywhere else due to the cold and snowy weather. Northern theaters could only stay open around 5 months out of the year at the most. Engineers developed in-car heaters that were attached to the speaker poles that you could use to heat your car while the window was down for the speaker. These were a failure due to their high purchase, installation, and maintenance costs. 

    Presently, drive-ins are slowly making a comeback by building multiplexes with more than one screen, or adding screens to existing theaters. This gives drive-ins the opportunity to obtain first-run films, and show many at one time. Muffled and "crackly" in-car speakers of the old drive-in era are being replaced now with FM stereo sound. Some older theaters have AM broadcast. Now you simply sit in your car with the engine off, and the radio on to listen to the movies. No need to put your windows down and let the bugs in anymore. With modern Solid State electronics in cars, the drain on your car battery for the operation of the radio will be minimal. The newest modern problems I've noticed is people wanting to turn their car on for a minute for some air conditioning, and their daytime running lamps come on, blinding patrons, and fading out the movie on the screen. Also, today's windshields have the tinted strip across the top to help with sun glare. This cuts down on your viewing area of the screen, unless the theater you are at has some nice beveled dirt ramps to park on (all older drive-ins had these).

    For those of you who haven't been to a drive-in in some time, yes, people still beep the horns and flash their headlights at dusk, people still make puppets and gestures into the projection light beam, and the concession stand is still usually a little building in the middle of the lot with the projection booth in front. However, many theaters now are adding full sit down restaurants, ice cream parlors, miniature golf, playgrounds, arcades and amusement rides on site for patrons. Many of these annexed establishments are kept open year round to offset the decrease in revenue from the theater being closed during colder months. As far as I've noticed, sneaking people into the theater in the trunk is no longer popular (of course now many cars come with emergency releases on the inside of the trunk - no more worrying about your buddies "forgetting" about you).  

    An excellent source for drive-in history is the book: "American Drive-In Theaters: A History From Their Inception In 1933" by Kerry Segrave. I've been told that this book is no longer in print, but can be found in many libraries. When I began my research into local theaters, I was shocked at how little research there is on them. So, I guess I'm blazing a new trail! Our local Landmark Society is also interested in my research since they do not have anything on file about our area's past drive-ins.

I've created this web site to share my research with the world with the hope that I can make up for a little part of the comeback of the drive-in theater. My site focuses mainly on Rochester area past drive-ins, and other drive-ins around Western and Northern New York State.

Does the background color look familiar? Remember the old 1950's mint green?? Happy drive-in watching!

Travis H. Beaver

HOME | Current NY Drive-Ins | Rochester NY Drive-Ins | Links | Own Your Own!

Last updated May 31, 2013

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