Notices:

Hathaways Drive-In Theatre was sold in May 2009 to Duane Greenawalt who is operating the drive-in theatre. Good luck to Duane!

 

FROM CONVENTION 2008

From: The United Drive-in Theatre Owners Association (U.D.I.T.O.A.)

Submitted by:  D. Edward Vogel, Administrative Secretary

(More contact & event info to follow the press release)

 

8th Annual U.D.I.T.O.A. Convention in this

75th Anniversary Year of the Drive-In Theatre!

Feb. 4 -7, Kissimmee, Florida

 

For Immediate Release:

As the drive-in movie theatre crosses into the 75th year of existence it was confirmed to be alive, well and still an integral part of the exhibition side of the motion picture industry at the 8Th Annual United Drive-in Theatre Owners Association (U.D.I.T.O.A.) Convention, held in Kissimmee, Florida February 4 thru 7, whose total membership represents 321 screens in the market that now holds steady to just under 400 locations in the U.S.A.  To this end, UDITOA has formed a 75th Anniversary task force to assure the member drive-in theatres assistance in an ongoing effort to provide information and support during this important milestone in history.

On hand with the attending members of the UDITOA to confirm, validate and set the course of the celebration of these roadside icons for historical needs, were Dick (Richard M. Holligshead III,)  the namesake of the inventor who was 10 when his father opened the first site and his first cousin “Wick” (Wickliffe  Holligshead,)  whom, like the concept itself was in his infancy when his Uncle Richard M. Holligshead Jr, began this social and exhibition phenomenon opening the Camden Drive-In Theatre, on June 6, 1933, in New Jersey.

In a stunning, humorous and very emotional surprise to all in the banquet room, it was revealed to the membership prior to the start of dinner Tuesday evening that these special guests and their wives, who had been “bumping elbows” with the membership for the 2 days prior by graciously masquerading as the “Holls,” had a heartfelt connection to them. All of this was carefully captured by drive-in theatre documentary filmmaker April Wright.  

In a truly unforgettable night, following dinner, Dick and his wife Donna, Wick and his wife Mary Cloud, took questions from the group, some of them setting the historical record straight, and a lot of them ending up in excited humor, as well as a rush of emotion.  When it looked as though all the questions had been asked,  Dick Holligshead in a yet a second rush of excitement and emotion, graciously and with the utmost sincerity requested that the owners and operators tell him some of their stories, knowing all the while none of them would be told had it not been for his dad. 

The whirlwind 4 day event was attended or represented by nearly every area of the motion picture industry, and touched upon every aspect of these roadside gems in this diamond year. From the humble and creative beginnings, to a time when drive-in screens supported Hollywood more strongly than their hardtop counterparts, to the stabilization of the present number on into the matters of the upcoming conversion to digital image projection, and the course the organization will take for the future, the business organization reinforced its mission, purpose and camaraderie.

In mid week the ozoners and guests spent some quality time with each other with a group excursion to SeaWorld, with an “open” evening that had the Inn hopping with activity and fellowship.

Thursday was filled with information, presentations, and seminars, and the final night banquet was celebrated with guest producers Lance Jones and Kim Dawson, who brought along a surprise guest, actor Gordon Michaels who entertained the group with the antics of the character he has developed, “Unbeatable Harold.” The guests spoke to the upcoming release of the film, and discussed their ideas of why the drive-in theatre would be a good place to tie into what is looking like a fun family film, starring Gordon Michaels, Nicole DeHuff, Dylan McDermott, Henry Winkler, and many more stars.

The convention officially ended as they “passed the mic” around to all the membership where each said a few words.  This is always a touching end, but in this Diamond Anniversary year, along with the very touching sentiment added by Dick and Wick Hollishead and the laughter created through the week ending with Gordon Michaels, this convention will be remembered like no others.

April Wright, Documentary film “GOING ATTRACTIONS: The rise and Fall of the Drive-In as an American Icon”  www.driveindoc.com   

Contact:

D. Edward Vogel,

Administrative Secretary

Association Voice Mail: 443 490-1250

Website: www.uditoa.org

Photo1 Hollingsheads’ :

Richard M. Hollingshead III, with Wife Donna Hollingshead, Wick Hollingshead with wife Mary Cloud Hollingshead.  February 5, 2008 at the UDITOA 8th Annual Convention.

 

 

Photo 2: (Left to Right)  Producer Lance Jones, receiving a specially made award, with actor Gordon Michaels, as UDITOA President Paul Geissinger (owner of Shankweiler’s Drive-in Theatre, America’s oldest operating Drive-In Theatre,) looking on. (Shankweiler’s was the second Drive-In Theatre to be built folling the Holligshead’s Camden Drive-In Theatre.)  February 5, 2008 at the UDITOA 8th Annual Convention. 


Recent events:

Annual "Fall Gathering"

The annual drive-in fall gathering was held at Joe and Bonnie Barth's Highway 21 Drive-In Theatre in Beaufort, SC November 9 thru 11, 2007. 

The UDITOA thanks the Barths for graciously offering to host this year's gathering.


Member News:

Saturday, October 27, 2007   www.detnews.com (The Detroit News)

Dearborn drive-in endures, open year-round for families and film buffs

Jodi Noding / Special to The Detroit News

DEARBORN, MI -- Movies flickering under the stars, tykes in pajamas on a car roof, a speaker dangling through the window as Rover leaps around the back seat.

Wait a minute, what time of year is it?

Fall leaves and winter snowfalls are no problem at the Ford-Wyoming Drive-In, which bills itself as the largest drive-in theater in the world. The Dearborn venue, with 3,000 parking spots, is one of those rarest of rarities, a drive-in that stays open year-round.

Outlasting most of its peers, the Ford-Wyoming in Dearborn continues to have solid business in Metro Detroit. Up to 2,000 vehicles visit the nine screens on a busy weekend night, owner Charles Shafer said. Five of the nine screens show films year-round.

"We can stay open in the winter. We've only closed three times in 26 years," Shafer said.

And they stay open in the winter because people come. Plug-in heaters keep cars warm during cold weather, and Shafer maintains the old-fashioned speakers as well as offering radio sound for the movies.

"I enjoy the business," he said. That's what keeps Shafer, 87, up at 3 a.m., counting grosses and paying bills. His father was general manager for Fox Theatre in Detroit. And Shafer himself started as an usher before he began opening his own theaters and drive-ins throughout the state.

Screens kept adding up

Shafer bought the Ford-Wyoming in 1981 with partner Bill Clark when it offered one screen. Taking their cue from multicinemas, which were then exploding on the scene, the partners added on, making it a five-screen drive-in.

"We bought more property and added more screens. Every year got better when we added screens," Shafer said.

In the early '90s, the partners expanded again, this time leasing property and building four more screens. The property where screens 6-9 sit is up for sale by its owners, Shafer said-- which highlights one of the economic reasons there aren't more drive-ins.

"The thing is, you've got to go way out in the sticks to build a drive-in," Shafer said. "Then 50 or 60 years later, you're surrounded by people and you have the only available property over 20 acres."

Shafer and Clark have sold other drive-ins around the state to companies such as Ford Motor Co. and McDonald's once the property value outweighed movie profits and the average $4-per-car concession revenue.

But the Ford-Wyoming benefits from the dearth of other theaters in its Ford Road neighborhood. "We have no competition at all," he said.

Families are key to success

Drive-in appeal remains strong for certain groups. The ability to bring pets is a plus for people, as is the freedom to smoke. And handicapped patrons like that they don't have to get out of the car, Shafer said.

General manager Ed Szurek, who has worked at the Ford-Wyoming for 26 years, said: "The secret of our continued success is families. The kids come in their PJs. It's a relaxed environment. You aren't shoulder-to-shoulder with someone."

Customer Judy Maiga of Wyandotte agrees. She and her family of five visit the Ford-Wyoming two to three times a year. Maiga appreciates that her daughters can have the same experience she had as a girl, going to the now-closed Jolly Roger Drive-In in Taylor.

"The kids really enjoy it," she said of her three daughters, ages 12, 9 and 7. "It's an event when we go as opposed to going to a regular show. We pop popcorn. It's a whole night.

"Plus, they can see two movies. Financially, that's a big draw," Maiga said. "My 12-year-old had her 10th birthday party there. It was great, and it was cheap. We invited four or five of her friends and had cupcakes."

Szurek said the children's price of $2.50 and the double features are a lure for families. And during the summer, theaters 6-9 featured a special price of $3.99 for adults and free for children under 12 before 9 p.m. that was extremely popular, he said. Regular adult admission is $8.

He estimates 2007 will bring better revenue than the past few years. What's helped, he said, is a steady stream of big movies, like "Transformers" and "Spider-Man 3." And because Ford-Wyoming has multiple screens, it is not locked into showing one at a time, and can open up each movie during the first weeks of showing, when the films take in the bulk of sales.

Szurek is a member of the United Drive In Theatres Owners Association, a national group that works to promote the business. One of their biggest challenges has been making sure drive-ins aren't left out during Hollywood's planned transition from film to digital in the coming years. New theaters opening already use the technology; drive-ins have lobbied hard to ensure they get the same cutting-edge equipment.

The association's work is paying off. After plummeting from 4,063 drive-ins in the heyday of 1958 to around 450 in 1999, the business has begun to stabilize, with new theaters and reopenings offsetting losses. In 2006, there were almost 400 drive-ins with 650 screens nationwide.

"Every single member loves the drive-in business," Szurek said. "The determination in that group is unbelievable."

Jodi Noding is a Metro Detroit freelance writer.


Last (outdoor) picture show

Sunday, July 22, 2007 The Post and Courier (www.charleston.net)

Drive-ins a relic of softer times

Melissa Haneline
The Post and Courier

Peter Cote (driver's seat) with wife Mikaela (back seat driver's side) and friends Brandyon McMillian and Amanda McMillian sit in the open air of a convertible while watching "Evan Almighty" on the second of two screens at the Highway 21 Drive-In in Beaufort, SC one of only three left in the state.

BEAUFORT

Steve McLain can see God through the windshield and the Human Torch in his rearview mirror.

Propped up in a 1991 Cadillac Sedan deVille, with a warm breeze blowing through the windows, he puffs on a fat cigar and sips on a Coke, the professional practitioner of a lost art.

He's not in heaven, but somewhere he considers pretty close to it. McLain is watching "Evan Almighty" on a billboard-size movie screen nestled among pine trees, while "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" plays on another screen across the lot. He is one of the regular devotees to this nearly forgotten piece of Americana: the drive-in movie.

"You can't sit in Cadillac seats in any theater," he said.

The Highway 21 Drive-In, just outside of town here, is the last big picture show in these parts, the only place in the Lowcountry you can cruise back to an era when the big screen really meant the Big Screen. Fifty years ago, during their heyday, there were nearly 100 drive-ins in South Carolina.

Now, there are only three.

"I remember when I was a kid and I'd go to the drive-in in Mount Pleasant," said McLain, who now lives in Bluffton. "I think it's the neatest experience for watching a movie."

It is nothing if not a trip down memory lane. Arrive before sundown to get a good parking spot, and it all comes rushing back in a wave of sweet nostalgia: kids playing in their pajamas, lovers sneaking an errant smooch, popcorn buckets piled high on the hood of a car.

Melissa Haneline
The Post and Courier

Some patrons at the Highway 21 Drive-In in Beaufort choose to use traditional speakers for the movie, even though the option of tuning in to a radio station is a newer way of hearing the movie soundtrack.

Speakers lined up in rows plays the Beach Boys, the Shirelles, the Drifters — music that harkens back to the golden age, that idyllic time that baby boomers long for. That's how long it's been: "Help Me, Rhonda" and "Under the Boardwalk" were hit songs when the drive-in movie was last a popular social gathering spot.

The first drive-in movies opened in the 1930s, but didn't really catch on until after the war. By 1958 there were about 5,000 drive-ins around the country. At one point there were 99 in South Carolina alone, according to www.driveintheater.com, the industry's history Web site. [The UDITOA does not recognize this website as a bonafide source for industry data.]

But 40 years later — after the multiplex, the VCR, the Internet — there were only 800 drive-ins nationwide. And only a few of those were healthy.

Today, it is undoubtedly the tug of nostalgia that pulls most people to the drive-in. But once inside, they find a world that has only gotten better with age. Most gush about the prices of the nightly double feature — $5 for adults, $1 for kids under 12 — as well as the food, the atmosphere and the family environment.

But mostly the food: The funnel cakes, the Sno-Cones, the cotton candy and, of course, the giant buckets of buttered popcorn. Take a whiff of the cooking oil and frying batter and all of the sudden the old jingle "Let's All Go to the Lobby" begins to run through your head.

It was those memories that drew David and Nedra Byrd of Summerville here. On a Friday night they loaded up a few lawn chairs and their kids — Jessica, 15, and Allison, 11 — for the hourlong drive. Waiting for the movie to start, fending off the no-see-ums, the Byrds sit in the back of their truck reliving their childhood.

"We did this as a surprise for the kids," Nedra Byrd said. "We wanted to do something as a family, and we wanted to show them how it was when we were kids."

On the Web

Highway 21 Drive In

A special multimedia report on the Highway 21 Drive in, Beaufort SC.

The Highway 21 Drive-In regularly pulls in people from Charleston, Savannah — all over the Lowcountry. On a good Friday night, there might be 300 cars parked before the two screens, the second added last year as a nod to 21st Century economics. Most studios require theaters to keep movies two weeks. To keep the people coming back, one of the screens gets a new flick every Friday.

The only reason the Lowcountry has a drive-in anymore is because of Bonnie Barth. She saw the summer blockbuster flick "Independence Day" at the Highway 21 Drive-In more than a decade ago and fell in love all over again. When the owners retired and shut down the drive-in, Barth and her husband, Joe, had a novel idea: they would buy it.

"I said, 'But we don't know anything about it,' and Joe said, 'It'll be fun,' " Barth recalls.

It's clear that Barth pays particular attention to the concession stand. She spends most of her evenings deep-frying funnel cakes and making Sno-Cones under a tent outside the main snack bar. The stand is virtually a restaurant, serving hamburgers, hot dogs and pizza alongside the more traditional fare of popcorn and candy.

As the light fades from the sky, the reason for this emphasis on concessions becomes clear. A commercial from the United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association begins with romantic images of famous drive-ins of yesteryear, big red letters stamped across the pictures telling you they are "CLOSED."

These days, theaters pay the vast majority of money they collect from ticket sales to rent first-run movies; the snacks pay the bills. Please, the commercial urges, support the drive-in by supporting the concession stand.

Most people do, and many brag about the quality of the food. Some people, Barth said with a measure of pride, come just for the funnel cakes and other fare. She said it has helped to keep the Highway 21 Drive-In open. The drive-in isn't in the black yet, but it's getting by, she said, and doing better all the time.

It certainly seems so on a typical Friday night. Kids run up and down the aisles between the cars, laughing and playing as their parents watch. Whole families pack the line at the concession stand, hoping for a last tub of popcorn or a citronella coil, which you really need out here to keep the bugs away. Meanwhile, twenty-somethings digging the retro scene cruise the lot in silk pajamas like they're at the Playboy mansion. It's pretty clear that the drive-in is back.

Melissa Haneline
The Post and Courier

A young drive-in movie goer watches "Ratatouille" from the top of a car at the Highway 21 Drive-In in Beafort.

As dusk settles, the tailgating parties wind down. The anticipation builds, and everyone gets comfortable and quiet, either out of respect or because they are in awe of the evening sky. The show is about to begin.

Counting down the minutes is Donald Seagraves, the Highway 21 Drive-in projectionist. He's been showing movies since he was 17, and he's now nearly 50.

Seagraves stands between the two projection rooms, one for each big screen, surveying the scene. The Highway 21 Drive-In is just like the outdoor theaters of his youth, perhaps even better. He's old enough to remember the sad decline of drive-ins, when they could get only B-movies and became hang-outs for teenagers.

Now the drive-in is family-oriented, right down to the way the Barths avoid R-rated movies as much as they can. But everyone, he notes, is having a good time.

"It's just a place for people to meet and talk and be outside," he says. "People miss it in their lives."

Seagraves checks the sky, glances at his watch — 8:55. It's time. He makes his way into the projection booth and, moments later, the night sky lights up and images begin to dance across the screen as they did decades ago.

It's magic, all over again.

National drive-ins

1939 18

1948 820

1958 5,000

1977 3,900

1980 3,500

1990 1,000

S.C. drive-ins

1948 36

1954 99

1958 72

1963 56

1967 46

1977 40

1982 25

1987 12

2007 3

Operating S.C. drive-ins

HIGHWAY 21 Drive-In Theatre: U.S. Highway 21 North, Beaufort. 843-846-4500
Auto Drive-In: Highway 25 South, Greenwood. 864-229-5999

*Big Mo Drive-In Theatre: U.S. Highway 1, Monetta. 803-685-794
(*Reopened in 1999 after being closed for 15 years)

Source: www.driveintheater.com and the United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association

Reach Brian Hicks at 937-5561 or bhicks@postandcourier.com



This page last updated 5/20/10

Copyright - United Drive-in Theatre Owners Association, Inc.