Since the drive-in theater opened in 1933, these entertainment venues have become an integral piece of American history, with over 4,000 locations being in operation in the 1950s. Initially driven by the popularity of the automobile, drive-ins have since become less prevalent as other means of entertainment have taken over. However, they remain a fond memory in the annals of our history—and may even be making a comeback after the recent pandemic.
5 Fun Drive-In Movie Theater Facts and Statistics
Here are five of the most interesting stats and facts about drive-in theaters. These range from current trends to fun historical tidbits.
1. Drive-Ins Generated Massive Revenue in North America in 2020
Between the months of March and August 2020, drive-in theaters generated roughly 85% of all box office revenue, with some weeks peaking at over 95%! The high proportion of drive-in theater revenue was due to moviegoers being less comfortable going to enclosed indoor theaters. Combined with many people’s desire to get out and do something outside the house, the open-sky environment at drive-ins made them the perfect entertainment fit.
Drive-ins are still going strong in 2021 as well, earning about 6.2% of all box office revenue on weekends, which is over double what they were making pre-pandemic.
2. There Are Over 500 Drive-In Screens in the U.S.
As of 2019, the number of drive-in screens in the United States had reached 559, representing a small increase over the previous year, though not nearly as high as in their heyday. This figure doesn’t represent the number of total locations, which come in at just over 300 nationwide. Some new theaters—including LoCo!—have opened up since that time, so drive-ins may become a little more common in the years to come.
3. The U.S. Has More Drive-In Theaters than Any Other Country
The drive-in is a fundamentally American concept, along with the popularity of automobiles that drove its creation. As such, it’s no surprise that there are more drive-in theaters in the U.S. than in any other country. After the 300+ in the States, there are only about 50 in Canada, the next runner up.
That said, there have been a few more drive-in theaters popping up here and there in Europe since the pandemic, so time will tell what the numbers look like in the future.
4. The Most Popular Drive-In Name Is...
When it comes to naming drive-ins, there are a few names that are far more popular than others. The most popular has been “Starlite Drive-in” and variations thereof. Following that is “Skyview,” which also has multiple variations (“Sky View,” “Sky Vu,” and “Sky-View,” to name a few).
(Of course, we’re rather partial to the name LoCo, ourselves.)
5. Most Drive-Ins Are Owned By Individuals or Families
The vast majority of drive-ins are owned by either families or individuals, making them largely local attractions. That said, there are a few drive-in chains in operation with locations in multiple states. With the resurgence in drive-ins we’re seeing now, it’s possible that there will be more chains in the future. Time will tell.
Common Questions about Drive-In Facts
In addition to the above statistics and facts, these questions are some of the most commonly asked when it comes to drive-in theaters.
When did drive-in movies start?
Drive-in movie theaters got their start in 1933, when Richard Hollingshead opened the first theater in Camden, New Jersey. Open theaters had been in existence before, but Hollingshead was the first to design one exclusively for vehicles.
How many drive-in theaters are in the US?
As of 2019, there were 305 drive-in theater locations in the United States, according to UDITOA. That number may increase in coming years.
What states have drive-in movie theaters?
Most states have at least one drive-in movie theater. The states with the most are New York and Pennsylvania (with 28 each in 2019), Ohio (with 24), Indiana (19), and California (15).
Are drive-in movie theaters profitable?
A drive-in movie theater can be profitable. It really depends on your operational expenses, ticket prices, concessions, and so forth, not to mention your hours of operation. Most drive-ins operate during the summer months and only after sunset, which can limit profitability. With all that in mind, a drive-in can generate significant revenue if you manage to sell out all season.
What movies are currently showing at the drive-In?
Drive-ins show a wide range of films, from old classics to the latest blockbusters! If you’re in Loudon, Tennessee, you can see our upcoming showing schedule here!