Is This the Last Summer of Drive-in Movie Theaters?

2013-03-13T02:00:00Z Is This the Last Summer of Drive-in Movie Theaters?By Julie Wootton - Twin Falls Times-News

TWIN FALLS • Both drive-in movie theaters in Twin Falls will soon reopen for a new season, but their futures remain up in the air.

The target reopening date for the Motor-Vu is March 22, depending on weather conditions. And Grand-Vu will likely follow two or three weeks later.

Larry Roper, managing director of Interstate Amusement, said the drive-ins will stay open as long as there are 35-mm films.

“I don’t know how long that’s going to be,” he said.

Without 35-mm films, drive-in theater owners would have to make costly upgrades to digital technology.

“If we cannot get some kind of solution to the end of the 35-mm film or a way to put digital into the drive-ins, they all will be closing,” Roper said.

He said initial information from major studios such as Disney and Paramount indicated 35-mm films won’t be produced after April 1.

The studios have already started to cut back, he said.

For the first time in 35 years, there won’t be a summer show series for children in Jerome because it’s unclear whether 35-mm films will be available to the Orpheum Theatre there.

“Jerome is going to feel the first hit when it loses its summer series,” Roper said.

Upgrading technology at the Motor-Vu and Grand-Vu theaters would mean installing a much larger light source than indoor theaters.

Roper said each drive-in would need an 8,000-9,000 watt system to get light onto the outdoor screen. In comparison, the Twin Falls Cinema only uses 3,000 watts.

Upgrading could cost as much as $100,000 apiece, he said.

Other questions have also come up, Roper said, such as what effect all the dust at the drive-ins would have on the equipment.

Twin Falls is among just a handful of Idaho towns, including Parma and Grangeville, to still have a drive-in theater.

Construction on the Motor-Vu finished in 1947, and the Grand-Vu was built in 1951.

Nationwide, the number of drive-in theaters is declining.

There were an estimated 368 drive-ins nationwide as of July 30, 2012, according to the United Drive-in Theatre Owners Association’s website.

That compares with 4,063 drive-ins at the indutry’s peak in 1958.

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(1) Comments

  1. mommybear
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    mommybear - March 13, 2013 11:39 pm
    SO SAD!!! I would HATE to see the Drive in Shut down. It was the highlight of our family summers. Going to the movies is hard when you have kids and I loved the fact that we could actually afford to go to a movie because the prices are lower. Before you close the Drive in.. perhaps you could do some fundraiser nights and see how much you could bring in to cover the cost of updating the movies. Perhaps make it a carnival night at the movies and make it an all DAY EVENT. Have kiddie train rides, bobbing for apples, and some other games... Just for fun... Perhaps invite other business's to set up booths and charge them a fee. To get in, charge a fee for the whole day, and when the sun sets, let a movie gets played. Could become a great event, and who knows what kind of money it could bring in. PLEASE DON'T give up on the Drive IN... that is something so unique to our town, and so special, don't let it die!

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