Open Your Own Drive-In Movie Theater

drive-in movie

The popular hashtag #aloneTogether takes on new meaning when you, your sweetheart, and the kids are enjoying a flick with a blanket, on the hood of the car, while leaning back on the windshield.

Drive-in theaters are popping up all across the country, as social distancing keeps movie theaters closed and the quarantined are starved for entertainment.  Screenings are being held in parking lots, restaurants, parks, and outdoor theaters.  They’re selling out and often within minutes!

Business models range from showing classic movies, to independent arthouse films to staging live comedy. Drive-in owners are also preparing to fill a new role in a post-pandemic world by hosting church services, graduations, and conventions.  When people are forced to #stayHome the urge to get out of the house festers.  That’s a fun pandemic word, don’t you think?

With so few drive-ins the opportunity is ripe to build your own.  So, let’s get on with the show.  We’re here to tell you what you’ll need to make your own drive-in theater.  At the very least you will need:

  1. A Screen
  2. A Projector
  3. A Sound System
  4. A Power Source
  5. An Outdoor Space
  6. And Movies
DIY drive-in movie theater

Carl’s Large Venue Screens

Let’s start with obvious, you’re going to need a big screen.  And we can help you there!  Our large venue screens deliver stunning images and fill the entire viewing expanse with sizes ranging from 230″ to 624″, and at a price point that won’t require “The Great Train Robbery“.  Anyone a fan of the old, black and white, silent, short, western films?  Moving on.

See our budget-friendly, large venue screens here!  If building your own screen, from scratch, is too overwhelming consider our large venue hanging kit.

Not sure what size?  Visit our article “How to Select Your Ideal Projector Screen Size”.  While this article was originally written for home theater the same principles apply to grand, motion-picture theater shows.

Mother nature is more powerful than any screen.  Make sure you properly anchor your screen to keep the audience and your screen safe.

Projectors for Large Venue

The type of projector you’ll need depends on the types of movies you plan to show. Classic films may require a 35mm film projector while newer movies require an 4K or HD projector.  Begin with our article “Five Things to Consider When Picking a Projector”.  When you’re ready, an excellent source to find a projector is projectorcentral.com. Screens larger than 375″ may require more than one projector and the use of edge-blending with presentation media software (new article coming soon).

Transition from Silent Films to Talkies

Unless you really are showing silent films, you are going to need sound.  The movie’s audio can be broadcast over radio waves and received by each car’s stereo system where the viewers can control the volume.  You will need to purchase a Part 15 certified FM transmitter to be FCC compliant. Simply select an FM frequency not in use and plug your FM transmitter into your projector’s audio output.  We recommend finding a transmitter that is capable of at least a 50-foot range like:

Signstek’s Dual Mode Long Range Stereo Broadcast FM Transmitter with Antenna Silver

Additional Considerations

  • Power Source
  • Cables/Cords
  • Outdoor Space
  • Event Staff
  • Concessions
  • Movie Licensing (new article coming soon)
  • Permits and taxes, check with your city and state
large projector screen for drive-in theater

Drive-Ins:  The Safer Cinema

Since #saferAtHome started, many drive-ins are introducing new safety measures including asking employees to wear masks and gloves and moving food orders online, which are then delivered to vehicles. Some also check employees’ temperatures every three hours.

With indoor theaters closed, drive-in theaters are providing movie-goers the opportunity for a shared audience experience. And it is inspiring a new generation of backyard and outdoor theater enthusiasts with something they may have only read about in history books.

Time to Enjoy the Show!

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